Hitting a Nerve

Health care on holidays


My office was open on Presidents Day this year. Granted, I’ve never closed for it.

We’re also open on Veteran’s Day, Columbus Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

Occasionally (usually MLK or Veteran’s days) we get a call from someone unhappy we’re open that day. Banks, government offices, and schools are closed, and they feel that, by not following suit, I’m insulting the memory of veterans and those who fought for civil rights.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, I don’t know any doctors’ offices that AREN’T open on those days.

Part of this is patient centered. When people need to see a doctor, they don’t want to wait too long. The emergency room isn’t where the majority of things should be handled. Besides, they’re already swamped with nonemergent cases.

Most practices work 8-5 on weekdays, and are booked out. Every additional weekday you’re closed only adds to the wait. So I try to be there enough days to care for people, but not enough so that I lose my sanity or family.

In my area, a fair number of my patients are schoolteachers, who work the same hours I do. So many of them come in on those days, and appreciate that I’m open when they’re off.

Another part is practical. In a small practice, cash flow is critical, and there are just so many days in a given year you can be closed without hurting your financial picture. So most practices are closed for the Big 6 (Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years). Usually this also includes Black Friday and Christmas Eve. So a total of 8 days per year (in addition to vacations).

Unlike other businesses (such as stores and restaurants) most medical offices aren’t open on weekends and nights, so our entire revenue stream is dependent on weekdays from 8 to 5. In this day and age, with most practices running on razor-thin margins, every day off adds to the red line. I can’t take care of anyone if I can’t pay my rent and staff.

I mean no disrespect to anyone. Like other doctors I work hard to provide quality care to all. But the nature of medicine is such that we give up our own time to help others. So I try to be there for them as much as I can, without going overboard and at the same time keeping my small practice afloat.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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