Let’s Talk: How long is too long to wait for a doctor? 34



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Winnie wrote in to us today with an interesting question.  

She would like to know what others think is a fair time to sit in a waiting room for a doctor’s appointment.

“I had an appointment at 10.15am. I had been sent an SMS the day before to remind me of the appointment time. I waited for 50 minutes and there was still an appointment before me.

“I went to the receptionist and said I was going home that I had waited long enough and if there was anything wrong with my recent tests the doctor could ring me. There was no apology or explanation.

“I understand doctors do have emergencies which I accept might delay appointments but my doctor is always late. Why send me a message to expect me to be on time. I’m prepared to wait for 30 minutes but no longer. Some doctors just think they can do what they like and suit themselves.

“What do I say to the doctor next time I see him? Any suggestions welcome.”

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. A clinic in Woodend rings patients if a doctor is running late for any reason and also approximately how long the delay will be. Just manners.

  2. I remember having the first appointment in the morning and when it was time for my appointment he went and made coffee and called me in when he finished it so I said to him no wonder you guys are never on time when you have coffee when you are suppose to start work we all have coffee before we leave for work

  3. A couple of years ago I had the first appt for the day but the clinic doors don`t open until 9, which was my appt time. I was sure I`d be on time for once but no. I watched the doctor walk around looking lost then she went of somewhere and came back with a coffee went into her room and closed the door. I was called in just before 9.20

  4. Years ago I was frustrated at having to wait for the doctor, then to be told our appointments were cancelled. I was having a pre-natal check up. I found out later that he was at the hospital working on a newborn that didn’t make it. I was really upset just thinking about the parents. I have never ever worried about waiting since, because I know that someone needs the doctor more than I do.

  5. We regularly have to wait 45-60 minutes and rarely get an apology. I have walked out because of other appointments and still don’t get an apology from any of the staff. I would change doctors but friends in the area say their doctors are the same. What are we supposed to do?

    1 REPLY
    • They seem to think that they are more important than everyone else. I have been waiting for a nurse procedure when the doctor walks into the room which was set up for me and took her patient in with her saying she wouldn’t be long. Some 30 minutes after I was still waiting the nurse took me into another room which was not really appropriate for the procedure. When I questioned the nurse she appeared embarrassed and said it was an emergency which I know was incorrect as the other patient had been waiting as long as I had. I don’t think that was an emergency. If the doctors are busy with patients I don’t mind waiting but when you can see them out the back drinking tea, or talking and laughing with other staff it is just plain rude. Not sure what can be done as they know we need to see them so they can make us wait as long as they like

  6. If you re like me when kept waiting I moan and groan to my husband about it and say that’s it, never coming back here. Then when I see the Dr. And he says sorry to keep you waiting I always smile sweetly and say oh that’s ok, no worries !?

  7. This is a problem my family never have maybe you should change doctors

  8. I never complain about waiting for a doctor. Many years ago my son, at the aged of two, had a massive convulsion whilst in the surgery for a respiratory infection. The doctor immediately left his patients and worked on my son for a length of time. The Ambulance system was on strike at the time and would not answer the request to take my son to hospital. If Doctor had not stayed with my son he would not have been here to celebrate his 46th birthday. No, I never complain about waiting to see a medical professional. I thank God that doctors care about their patients.

  9. I was in a wheelchair and waited 4 hours, cause I never had an appointment to pay, I was a walk in , in a wheel chair in this instance but still Receptionist kept making me wait, I sure let them hear me as I told mum I want to go home NOW.

  10. Emergencies aside, having to wait more than 5 or 10 minutes is unacceptable. It is just pig ignorance to keep patients waiting like that. Doctors clearly think their time is much more valuable than yours. It’s so arrogant.

    1 REPLY
    • I never mind how long I wait to see my Dr. The TV is on, it’s air-conditioned & as most of the other patients are elderly like us, we see the regulars every month. Why don’t I mind waiting? Because he never rushes us through a consultation or fob us off with a prescription without checking all our needs, arranges visits to specialists & asks about our families, offers to ring my daughter to pick me up & takes a genuine interest. This is not in some small country town but a busy suburb north of Adelaide. He even does home visits for my husband, once after midnight because that’s how caring he is. That’s what a real family Dr does. All he needs now is a coffee machine in the waiting room & we’d gladly sit there for hours. Sometimes “patients’ need ‘patience’.

  11. Doctors appointments are 10 mins per patient. Apart from being the first one – I can’t see how a doctors can keep to the correct time. I get a bit fidgety when there is a delay but think that my doctor treats and listens to me without looking at the clock and understand she obviously treats all her patients the same. Just be thankful we have a doctor at all.

  12. Maybe to the Dr you could thank him for being a Dr that does not rush his patients and takes the time to deal with their problem. Next I think you should mention to him that he teaches his receptionist the manners that should be used by a receptionist in a medical centre.
    I have worked in this industry for forty years and for the most part let me say that the Dr is just as unhappy that his day always runs late as the patient is. He like all working people would like to get home on time occasionally. However I am not discounting the fact that there are some who do make coffee and drink it whilst you wait because they are arrogant, there are also those who are drinking that coffee because they squeezed an patient needing care into their coffee break.

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