Indie’s Filing System

       There were a lot of reasons Indie stayed in trouble.  Of course it didn’t help Jim Beam was such a good friend to him, but most of that was on the weekends.  (Mrs. Jenkins wouldn’t let him drink before church, though, and Indie complied.)

        His filing system led to some of his misery.  Now, Indie never did see much need for all that paper work.  Indeed, sometimes he ’bout had me convinced.  This guy knew all his people on a first name basis, as well as where they lived and most of their phone numbers.  He could make a pretty good run at naming their meds, but he admitted the patient needed to bring in their bottles to jog his memory.

        You ain’t gonna believe this, but Indie wore this tattered tweed jacket with two big ole pockets, and he kept all his patient’s important papers right there on his person till he caught up with ’em to take care of the problem.

         I’d see Indie in the lounge at the hospital.  “Hey Indie, I saw Mrs. Ingle for you this weekend.  I think she might have pneumonia.  Did you get her x-ray?”

        “Hell, Bibey.  What kinda doctor are you?  It’s just atelectasis.  (In between bronchitis and pneumonia)  Got it right here.”  Then he’d fish around in his pocket (x-rays were in the right, lab on the left) and sure enough produce a report of confirmation.

        I can not overemphasize this is not the system of choice for the American Academy, and with good reason.  Sooner or later, a report about has to get lost.  When one did, it was important.

        Mrs. Hamlett was my English teacher, and a very proper woman.  So, when her little sister chose Indie as a Doc, old lady Hamlett was not the least bit happy.  Sissy had been a patient in the big practice in town.  When she fell on hard times and went on Medicaid, her doctor dropped her, ’cause the corporate folks said they had too many Medicaid folks on the rolls.  Indie was happy to see her.  He took all comers, no questions asked.  It was one of the things I liked about him.

        So, when Indie lost Sissy’s mammogram report at the Harnett Billiard and Bowl, Mrs. Hamlett was some kinda infuriated.

        She had every reason to be.  For one, it delayed the diagnosis six months, (the report later turned up under the sink when the Health Department came through for an inspection) and second of all, it was a major privacy violation.  (I was hip before HIPAA was cool.)

        When Indie told me, I was furious too.  “Dang it, Henry.  You’ve gotta get more modern, and you better quit keeping all those reports in your coat pockets.  I told you this was gonna happen.”

        “Well, hell, Bibey.  I’m sorry, but her nodes were negative.  I called and apologized.  It didn’t change nothing, you know, but I am sorry.”

          “That might be the science of it Indie, but somebody’s gonna come calling over this, and you’re in trouble.”  Dang him, he should be too.

        Other than the Blinky Wallendorf case, it turned out to be the worst trouble Indie saw as a Doc.  It wasn’t but a few months, and he got a certified letter from a law firm in Norfolk.

        He called me the day it came in.  Poor Indie.  He did foul up, but I felt sorry for him still.  I went to his office to see what had arrived.

        “Taylor, Taylor, Graham and Haley, Attorneys at Law.”  It looked official, and very poisonous.

        “Go ahead and open it, Bibey.  I can’t look.”  Indie covered his eyes like a child and awaited the news.

        I read the letter and offered a summary.  “Indie, this ain’t no false alarm.”  We all get letters on a regular basis, but most of it from the bottom feeders testing the water.  This was from Martin Taylor.  “I hate to tell you, Indie, but Martin Taylor is a bad a^^.  He’s gunned down bigger than you, brother.”

        “Thanks for the encouragement.” 

        “Better call your carrier, man.”

        Indie’s malpractice insurance carrier, like most of us in those days, was Physician’s Liability.  They were even less enthused than me.  They remembered Indie well ’cause of a heart attack case he had to settle on two years prior.  I thought he got done wrong on that one.  A patient called Indie’s house one night complaining of heartburn.  Indie says he told ’em to go to the ER, but of course he didn’t bother to make a note, and the patient said Indie said they could come to the office in the morning.  The man had a heart attack, and never regained his previous level of vigor. 

        A Doc like Indie is a duck in a shooting gallery, and the patient was the uncle of a prominent banker.  I knew Indie was gonna lose, but I was not sure he got a fair shake.  Another Doc might have gotten the benefit of the doubt, but Indie had too much baggage, and his carrier was afraid to go to trial.  They decided to cut their losses.  I can’t say I blame ’em, but I’m still not sure it was fair.  Indie is a lot of things, but dishonest ain’t one of his faults.  If we coulda dug up a few phone records or one more witness, maybe it’d a worked out, but he didn’t have enough support to take a chance at trial.   (If Indie had jotted down a note it wouldn’t have hurt either.)   

        That case went for a quarter mill, and he only carried a mill total, (it was all he could afford) so Sissy’s case could run the table for him.  I didn’t like his odds, especially against Martin Taylor.

        Mr. Taylor has a saying I have adopted.  “If you don’t know everything about a case, you don’t know anything.” (except we say don’t know nothing)  And, I promise you before Mr. Taylor takes on a case, he does his homework. 

        But then so do the Docs.  You have to to stay in business.  So next time I’m gonna give you the scouting report on Martin Taylor.  I know him well, and have all fear and respect of the man.  To understand Indie’s case, you have to understand Martin Taylor, so he’ll be the subject of our next visit.

Dr. B         

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8 Comments on “Indie’s Filing System”

  1. mrschili Says:

    Seriously, Doc; I feel like I’m getting the first shot at a Grisham novel! I’m on the edge of my seat! “Small town (drunk) doctor vs. big city, bad-a** lawyer.” I can even PICTURE the characters!

  2. drtombibey Says:

    mrschili,

    You are truly a kind human being. Lord, I don’t how far I might get, and I’ll be satisfied to just get published, but there is no doubt about one thing- you and the English Professor deserve some credit, ’cause y’all were the among the first to encourage me.

    If I can write some books and get people to ponder on how to treat folks with dignity and respect I will have done what I set out to do.

    I think one reason you like what I write is because that was your mind set about how to treat other human beings before you ever read a word of Tommy Bibey.

    Dr. B

  3. amberfireinus Says:

    You know, I think that this is a very sad reflection on our society. We have become a nation of sue the bastards! Even if they aren’t really at fault.

    I wonder when it was that medicine became infallable? Sure, there are doctors who screw up. They are humans (even though they themselves forget that at times). Believe me, I get angry when I feel that something is missed with my own case, and recently with my mothers.

    My plastic surgeon told me that there are three things that go hand and hand with how a patient does: 1. The surgeons skill/doctors competance 2. The patients attitude and ability to heal 3. Luck. Any one of those elements can be skewered on the day/moment. No one can tell….ever!

    I come back to my comments that I have made previously about the patient having responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

    Doctors see 100’s of patients each week. Medicine is VAST. How can you expect them to know it all? You simply do the best you can with the knowledge that you have… and best guesses.

    It would be different if ole “Indy” went into an operating theatre completely lit up and botched the job. But loss of test results? Hmm the patient has to take responsibility here too.

    Having worked the end half of my career in computers I can tell you that paperwork still is not safe. Even with our sophisticated methods. But you can’t sue a computer can you? People want that get rich quick answer. Will it bring your loved one back? No. Will it make them happy that you put some good doctor out of business because you felt you were entitled? Nope.

    Mistakes happen.. If you believe in God, then you believe in his plan for everyone. And when it is your time to go… well the pearly gates await you no matter how wonderful the doctor is. Period.

    Sad sad sad!

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Amber,

    You make many good points. Eventually somethings go wrong, and the question is how to deal with it all.

    The only system we have is our adversarial one (tis the American way, huh?) but sometimes I wonder if there needs to be some kinda “no fault” way of handling it all.

    There are some situations that can not be excused. If a doctor gets drunk and takes out the wrong kidney, he doesn’t need to be operating. And the doctor who willfully exploits a patient needs to have his a^^ kicked as they take away the right to practice.

    The honest mistakes or well intended misjudgments are the bugaboo, and I plan to explore that (and other issues) in my series to the best of my ability. At the end of the day, for me, the patient trumps, but we also can not destroy docs when things go wrong, or in the end there won’t be any left. It’d be like asking Tiger to play pro golf a lifetime and never hit a ball out of bounds! He’s good, but even Tiger ain’t that good.

    I know from your writing are a human being who has had to deal with a lot of medical issues, so I think you will have much perspective on these issues.

    Dr. B

  5. MandolinDon Says:

    Dr B.
    I just came across your blog via Steve in SC. Wow. What great story telling. I’m reminded of sitting with my grandfather listening to his stories – and the characters he’d encountered along the way. I miss that old man. You do Indie justice.
    Don

  6. drtombibey Says:

    MandolinDon,

    Always good to hear from another mandolin player. Old Indie is a sight- he makes for good material on a regular basis.

    Dr. B

  7. pandemonic Says:

    I can’t wait to find out what happens next. He must have wiggled his way out of that somehow, but I can’t imagine…

  8. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pande,

    One thing about Indie is if he gets outta one jam he is soon in another. He is the County’s longest running soap opera, though he usually avoids getting in trouble with women. (except for that French foreign exchange student. That is another story, but eventually all will be told.)

    Dr. B


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