Where did I go wrong?


Should we actually charge for medicine or give it away?

It seemed like a routine office call until the very end. I had explained to Mrs. Sample that her kitten, Little Fussy, would have to take a dropper full of the medicine twice daily for a week.

My technician took the bottle from me so that she could apply the computer label with the directions. Unfortunately, Mrs. Sample grabbed the medicine from her hand before she could get out the door.

I began to explain that the medicine needed to be labeled before we sent her home, but Mrs. Sample had other ideas. Pulling a tablespoon from her purse, she poured a generous portion of pinkicillin into the spoon and gulped it down.

"I won't give anything to my pets that I wouldn't take myself," she said. "My cats are very finicky, and I wouldn't want any of them to hate me for giving medicine that tastes bad. This stuff is pretty good though. I don't think Little Fussy will mind it at all."

Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with either the metric system or higher mathematics, let me point out that, if liquid from a 15-ml bottle is poured into a 15-ml spoon and is then swallowed by a 15-IQ person, there will be none left.

That is where the trouble began. Wanda Sample could not believe that we intended to charge her for two bottles of medicine. It's not that she minded paying for the second one, she just didn't think that she should have to pay for what she called "the sample bottle."

I was faced with a difficult decision. Should I charge for medications or give them away for free? I decided to take the question to an imaginary part of my hospital called the "not gonna happen" department. I took a pretend walk down the imaginary hallway to the fictitious door of the "not gonna happen" department. It was the second door on the left, right next to the "not my problem" department, another figment of my imagination that I introduced to you last August.

These are my two favorite and most-often used fictitious departments. Those two doors, and in fact, all doors in the imaginary hallway are stenciled with my name in gold letters right above the words "Chairman." Guess what? After a brief meeting, during which I discussed all of the pros and cons with myself, I came to the surprising conclusion that furnishing medications for free was "not gonna happen."

Wanda Sample stormed out with no medicine and told my receptionist that she would contact Pill-a-Pooch.com for her prescription.

By the time she was out the door, I was on the phone listening to another ridiculous request.

This time it was Mrs. Needy wanting to know why I couldn't come to her house and fix a broken leg.

"You could bring one of your helpers and put a cast on Bonaparte's leg right here, Doctor," she suggested. "Do you remember how wild he gets when he has to come to your office? Why, the last time he was there, it took four people to hold him down. I wouldn't want to see him go through anything like that again. If you fixed him here, I'm sure that he would hold still for me."

Finding myself somewhat lacking in suicidal tendencies, I held another brief department meeting and concluded that a visit to her house was "not gonna happen."

Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of those days.

Not an hour went by before Izzy Serious called to ask for my help. "It's pretty cold outside, Doctor, and there is a stray cat in my neighborhood that I feel sorry for. At least, I'm pretty sure it's a cat. It might be a groundhog or a raccoon. Anyway, I've seen him prowling out in the woods behind my house, but I've never been able to get close to him. Could you go out there some night this week after dark and try to get a look at him. Take a powerful flashlight. If you could get a look at him and if he seems healthy, then maybe you could trap him for me, and I could give him a home."

This request called for a special meeting. I went all the way to the "snowball's chance in hell" department.

Dr. Obenski owns the Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.

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