Petty or Necessary: Complaining About Patient Care

I’ve been a patient at a cancer center since April of 2016.  Overall, I’ve been very happy with my doctors and most of the nurses are lovely.  Today I felt compelled to write to the head of the organization regarding my concerns:


  1. Today, I arrived for my 1 PM appointment at 12:20 and I was called in an hour after my appointment time. A room was not ready for me, so I had to wait in the hallway.  There were no dressing rooms (they also function as lockers) so I was told I had to undress laying supine under a blanket in the CT scan room.
  2. Because the CT and PET scans were late, I got out after my next appointment was scheduled to start (same center, different building). The nurse called over, but when I arrived I was told, “You were late.  We can’t just hold your spot for you.”  I pointed out that I was late because of the center.  They claim to see patients in the order of their appointment time and not their arrival time.  Why was it different today?  I left without an MRI.
  3. The center has no respect for my time. I always wait anywhere from an hour to two hours after my appointment time to be seen – even when I am the first appointment of the day.  This is not standard practice for cancer centers and hospitals that treat cancer.
  4. The last two times I’ve had a health issue and called my doctor’s office, my calls were not returned.
  5. The nurse I met with in last Monday said she would follow-up with a call on Tuesday. I’m still waiting for that call.
  6. After treatment started, I was informed I am positive for a type of cancer that they don’t currently treat.  The treatment is about to be approved but is not yet available to the general public. I was told if the cancer comes back, they will treat it.  I have friends who went to another center who were given the treatment.  Why wasn’t I informed of any of this earlier?
  7. A social worker never followed up on something she was supposed to be working on for me, despite my faxing her the information she requested and leaving messages about it.
  8. I had a problem with a nurse (she dismissed some symptoms and I ended up hospitalized) and called patient rights who blew me off.  The nurse confronted me about my complaint and was as inefficient, rude, and dismissive as ever.
  9. The bathrooms and changing rooms in their upstate facility are disgusting (I’ve seen dried fecal matter on toilets); I’m surprised more people don’t get sick.

At first, I was too sick to stand up for myself, and was made to believe that I had no choice but to grin and bear it.  Now I feel like the issues need to be addressed.  Cancer is difficult enough to deal with.  My goal is to make it easier for those who have to go through a similar journey.

Am I being petty?  Should I have let it go?  If these things are not brought up, will they be ignored?  Has anyone had similar experiences?  Is this normal?


  17 comments for “Petty or Necessary: Complaining About Patient Care

  1. Sheindel
    July 20, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    Your not being petty ,you should be treated with respect and not be put in a stressful situation by those who are suppose to help you .

    • July 21, 2017 at 7:56 am

      Thanks, Sheindel. I actually felt a lot better once I wrote to the center.

  2. July 21, 2017 at 10:21 am

    I’m sorry to hear of your ordeal. Waiting and not receiving proper service makes for terrible experience under normal circumstances; to have to put up with it while being ill! No words for it!

    And no, you did not go overboard. Since it’s not a one-time lapse in professionalism but you have experienced similarly irresponsible behavior before, you are perfectly right to complain. And then to have them not only acknowledge their fault but blame you for it, I would have brought out the big guns on the spot. I hope you have reported the facility to the proper authorities, save someone else in your position from similar fate.

    • July 21, 2017 at 10:26 am

      Thank you! It’s been crazy. I contacted the head of the center, and am looking into contact information for the proper governing bodies. The place has an excellent reputation, but they fall short in many ways, making an already stressful situation worse.

      • July 21, 2017 at 10:35 am

        Listen, hon. I can already see that you are compensating for them. Don’t. It will take the heat out of your cause. I’m not trying to egg you on, but just because an institute has an overall good reputation, doesn’t mean they get to walk all over their customers, and certainly not when the organization is responsible for providing the support and services such as this. Proper customer care is paramount in this case, isn’t it? Sure, acknowledge their good qualities whenever you do report for the sake of objectivity, but don’t talk yourself out of the task by sympathizing.
        Sorry, I sound like I hijacked your problem but can’t help venting; I’m feeling pissed.

      • July 21, 2017 at 10:51 am

        Lol! Not at all! And don’t worry. I can be perfectly reasonable at times, but I’m not budging on this one. I was fuming yesterday and am still ticked off today.

  3. July 23, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    It’s awful that you had to endure this. I don’t think you’re being petty at all. I also agree that the reason nothing has been done is because many patients, like you are already in pain or have low energy. I’m always in agreement with raising one’s voice.

    • July 24, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      Thanks. That’s why I feel as if it’s time to raise my voice on behalf of those coming after me.

  4. July 24, 2017 at 6:33 am

    I don’t think you’re being petty. The problem may be systemic and they should be made aware. You might consider ahead of time what response would satisfy you, and what you will do next if you are not satisfied.

    • July 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks! That’s a good idea. You’re right. It’s not just about making them aware of the problems, it’s about ensuring change for the better.

  5. July 24, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Jo, I don’t know what the system is there, in the UK you’d get the treatment free (and probably similar problems!) but if you are paying for it then there’s really no excuse (not that there is anyway!), they are just not providing satisfactory customer service.

    All your points seem valid, perhaps no. six was a simple matter of someone not being aware of the treatment being available at the other centre?

    As such there must be some feedback system as somewhere along the line (CEO/shareholders?) there must be someone who DOES care that you have been messed around big time. It’s sometimes an effort to find the right person to complain to, who will actually address the problem though.

    If no-one brings these matters to the attention of the authorities however, sticking their heads above the parapet so to speak, then the problems will just continue.

    But I wish you luck with your (justifiable) complaints and hope you have a happier experience next time.

    Best wishes, Simon.

    • July 24, 2017 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks, Simon. I have insurance, so I pay for a party of it out-of-pocket. The biggest problem is when people object, they do it in the center, and don’t take it any further. There are two problems with that: the people working there aren’t the decision makers; and no one is being very forceful with their objections because they assume this is how cancer centers work so they grin and accept it. Hopefully, I can get the people in charge to take a look at the way things are run.

      • July 27, 2017 at 8:55 pm

        Hi Jo, yes, I understand that, we generally don’t want to play the ‘blame game’ in such a context, and everyone wants to pass the buck. But someone at the end of the day has to take responsibility, otherwise why are they paid such a hefty salary? Fingers crossed for a good result for you …

  6. July 26, 2017 at 5:38 am

    No, you are not being petty or complaining or going overboard. Medical care has become a nightmare–and centers that are concentrating on the financial numbers and forgetting their focus on patient care are becoming more and more the norm rather than the exception. I’m glad that you stood up for yourself and your patient rights, and I wish more people did so that the patient will again be the focus of attention. This is especially important when the patient is dealing with a chronic condition or a condition that has them literally fighting for their lives. Thank you for your courage. Dawn

    • July 26, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      Thank you, Dawn. I appreciate the support.

  7. July 31, 2017 at 6:46 am

    Brave you!
    All the best

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