In which a medical office earns my wrath, and I do something about it

Daughter needed to get maybe a handful of speech therapy sessions to correct a persistent lisp. Brought her to a nearby SLP place and had her evaluated. Noted at the time that it was the most unfriendly waiting room I have ever sat in, signs everywhere about what you are and are not allowed to do. Whatever. The SLP herself was lovely and Daughter has been making progress.

We cancelled an appointment and they forgot to mark it down, so the office manager called me after the fact to talk about it. I explained that we’d cancelled well outside the timeframe required, and I had no way of knowing it hadn’t been written down. She said, “Well, next time, you need to call me directly.” Okey-dokey.

Today I got a bill for a cancellation fee.

After dealing with my initial feelings about wanting to have it out with the office manager at high volume, or drive over there and dump $85 in nickels on her desk, and other childish fantasies, I finally called and said, “I thought we’d taken care of that.” No, she’d just decided on the phone to be passive-aggressive and not state that she’d still be submitting the bill. “I must not have been clear,” she said.

I do not play the passive-aggressive game.

I said, “Then I will be clear. I’m not saying I will not pay this cancellation fee. But if I do pay it, it will be the last money you ever receive from me. I will cancel all my daughter’s remaining appointments and bring her for therapy elsewhere. You will get your money, but you will get no other money. This is what’s known as a Pyrrhic victory. It’s up to you.”

She still kept weasling and finally said she’d let one of the doctors know my feelings. (Ugh.) “But I can’t promise the doctor will call you back.”

I said, “Then let’s just cancel for Saturday, since tomorrow morning is the end of the 48-hour window where I can cancel that appointment. And if the doctor doesn’t call me back, sometime next week I’ll call back and cancel all the remaining ones.”

Years ago I’d have kept fighting, or I’d have stayed with an office that actively hates its clients. In fact, I did do that. Bu maybe I’m getting old: I’m just too fed up with medical offices that treat you like you’re the enemy or like you’re worthless just because they’re medical folks and you are not. You want to treat me like crap? That’s lovely, but I don’t have to stick around for it.

The SLP is a sweet woman, and doubtless she’ll never find out why we’ve left, but you know what? I don’t care.

I called my PCP’s office and asked for a referral for a different SLP, and they asked me why, so I told them. And they also agreed the other office should have worked with us rather than zing us for a cancellation their own provider forgot to write down. (Actually, the PCP office nurse started giving me suggestions on how to make life as difficult as possible for the office manager, like paying fifty cents a month for the next hundred seventy months. No, I am not going to do that. If I pay it, I pay it.)

But I can’t deal with this. Because there’s no guarantee they won’t try something like this again. What if the SLP misplaces my copayment check and they try to add on their missed copay surcharge?

When I cancelled for next Saturday, I said, “Oh, and we’re also not coming the Saturday after Thanksgiving.” Office Manager said, “That’s already written down.” I said, “Well, that time it worked.”

As I said to the office manager, “Why stay with a speech-language practice that can’t communicate?”

I’m thinking even if the other doctor calls back now, I’m still changing practices. I don’t need their passive-aggressive office manager, and I don’t need this nonsense.


  1. Pat

    If the doctor does call back, do please tell her why you left. She might not even realize, otherwise, what her patients are being put through.

    1. Jane

      My experience with previous practices was that the doctor knew but didn’t care or didn’t know how to get the office staff under control. I could tell the doctor. I am aware though that patients and customers are often insane, and therefore my one solitary complaint isn’t likely to be taken seriously. If it’s part of a pattern, maybe then.

      I would like to let the SLP know we liked her a lot, but I’m not sure how to do that without going through the passive-aggressive office manager.

  2. CC

    Once upon a time I got a nasty “Your account is about to be turned over for collections” note from a hospital doctor’s billing agent when they had never even sent me a first bill or billed my insurance. After I got done with the billing agent I looked the doctor up in the phone book and sent a copy of our correspondence to her home address. Now you could probably find her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

    1. philangelus

      I did find her on LinkedIn; I’m not on Facebook.

      Now interestingly, on LinkedIn she’s the only person listed as an employee of this practice, which has two branches. Also, she doesn’t seem to give her personal contact information, not even on her press releases. So to my mind, that’s a big “Doctor does not care” sign. I would like to at least be able to send a goodbye to the nice SLP, but on the website, they don’t give the names of any of their practitioners. I wonder what that says about their turnover rate?

  3. Normandie

    Good for you, Jane!

  4. Elizabeth D.

    Ridiculous! I don’t blame you for leaving. I’m glad your daughter was at least receiving decent therapy through this practice– it’s sad you have to sever that relationship when she is making progress. I work in speech therapy down here in Texas. I was afraid this was going to be a “my daughter is receiving substandard therapy!” post. Those always burn my toast. I hate to think of a kiddo not being helped. 🙂

    If it were me, I would call the practice and ask for the SLP’s name. If they ask why, tell them you would like to mail her a thank you card for working with your daughter.Then just send it to the practice with her name on it. I’m not sure there would be any other way to contact her at this point. I’m sure she would really appreciate it.

    Good luck! Still love your blog! 🙂

    1. philangelus


      I’ll probably call sometime today when I know she’s there and try to talk to her or get her voicemail. I spent about ten minutes navigating their phone tree two nights ago, trying to find her voicemail box, and she’s not in the phone tree. Neither is she (nor anyone else!) listed on the practice’s website.

      It’s too bad I can’t just drop by you and pay you to do the rest of the speech therapy sessions. 🙂 But you’re a bit far of a drive from Angelborough.

  5. Tana Bevan

    Good for you!

  6. Amelia Sunderland

    We left our family doc because the office staff was hopelessly bad and then our doc’s nurse (whom we loved) left. I said after a three-hour visit (of which five minutes were spent with the doctor) that if ONE MORE THING went wrong we were done. And then of course one more thing went wrong. The girls are with a great pediatricians’ office now.

    1. philangelus

      When I get to the “one more thing” stage, I usually find I’m looking for something to go wrong, so I just get out of there. Staff can completely ruin a relationship with a doctor.