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Friday, August 20, 2010

Watch Out! Not All Doctors Are The Same...

­­­­August 21, 2010

By Silvia Uribe

Doctors exist to make people’s bodies heal, and work well. That’s a pretty general expectation of doctors everywhere. How are doctors supposed to accomplish this? It varies from culture to culture. Some may heal with “magic”, while others, like in some Latino cultures, with rubbing and massaging with ointments, combined with some sort of witchcraft also known as “limpias” (to clean the body and the soul). Other cultures fight illnesses with thin needles, or with herbs that bring relief to those who suffer from ailments.

Regardless, there are some steps that body healers have to follow. 1) They need to take the time to listen to their patient, ask the necessary questions, and assess what the problem may be. 2) They need to determine a treatment path – ranging from an aspirin to a surgery, and everything in between – and to evaluate the results of such treatment, and 3) If the treatment is not working, doctors are supposed to re-evaluate the situation and make adjustments to the treatment.

Logically, the common thread that runs through all these steps should be a constant flow in the communication doctor-patient-doctor.

However, some doctors don’t even deserve the title. They’ve seem to have forgotten one or more of these logical steps, starting with taking the time to listen. They seem to think that communication with the patient is not important, thus cutting it to a bare minimum, and relying on what the nurse refers to them, and what the records in front of him read. You may know the kind. These doctors I’m talking about whoosh in the room, ask you how you feel, start writing by hand or in the computer, and whoosh out before you know it, just to go onto the next patient whooshing again. Sometimes they barely look at you. Sounds familiar?

My elderly friend Graciela went through a terrible experience after a knee surgery followed by an infection, her doctor left her bed-bound for months on end. It was as if he had forgotten about her. All that time, he just let her suffer from great pain and desperation. The infection prevented her wound from healing, and he wouldn’t do anything about it. She became so frail, that we feared for her life.

Finally, after almost a year, and pushed to see her by her frequent calls, he decided to take the infected prosthesis out, place an anti-biotic pack in its place, and get rid of the infection that way. What he never told my friend was that, after the infection was gone, he wasn’t planning to replace the prosthesis, and that his “treatment plan” was to leave her without the use of her leg for the rest of her life. No options or intelligent reasons were given to her for this decision. Obviously bothered by her inquiries, he only told her that by doing what he said the risk for another infection would be reduced.

As you can imagine, she emphatically insisted on the fact that she wanted to be mobile again, but his position was firm. She finally had it, and told him that she wanted a second opinion. At first, he look surprised, and maybe a little scared, then he became defensive, and seemed mad at her for “changing plans at the last minute.” My friend asked “what plans?” He told her that he had scheduled another surgery to take the anti-biotic pack out of her leg the following week, which, of course, he had not previously discussed with her.

Now, with a new doctor, and a surgery coming up, she is expected to walk again, and have a normal life.

It seems that some in the health field get too comfortable (particularly in towns where they don’t have a lot of competition) and become insensitive to their patients’ needs. They may be bored or tired with what they do, and they start doing their job just for the money, and not because they have the passion to do it anymore. They don’t want to answer questions, or to explain themselves in a way that their patients can understand. They neglect their patients and put them at great risk.

As patients, we should not put up with their attitude.

Fortunately, there are others whom deserve to be called doctors. They practice medicine for the right reasons, and devote the necessary time to understand what’s going on with their patients. They confer with them and help them understand the benefits of their recommendations, and address their concerns. They are not lazy. They keep themselves up-to-date with new treatments and preventative measures. They’re good not only with the “easy cases”, where everything goes as planned. They’re also good when things get tough, and the results are unexpected and difficult to deal with.

That’s the kind of doctor patients respect, admire and trust. Not the health “line workers” that do their job with the automatic pilot on, but the ones that are knowledgeable, dedicated, and ethical health professionals.

My virtual hat is off to the latter ones.

Cross-Published on

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Word Has it!

By Silvia Uribe

August 8th, 2010

In Santa Barbara, we all know that a business' best advertisement tool is word of mouth. But, positive word of mouth is not cheap, and it doesn't come easily either. A business has to maintain a high standard in the quality of whatever it is they offer. Be it a service or a product, word of mouth can take any business to complete success, or it can unmercifully destroy it.How is it then that businesses gamble with their reputations is beyond me, but unfortunately they do; particularly restaurants, of which we have abundance, with a great variety of cuisines and flavors. Competition is the name of the game.

Particularly today, when online social networks allow us to post our opinions about a business, and have the potential for hundreds, at times thousands of people to see it, word of mouth should be taken more seriously now than ever. I guess some popular eateries feel that they'll be at the top forever and, at some point, they feel they can set whatever rules they want. They get used to hearing the register machine's sweet "ka-ching" sound, and they forget about why they're there, and most importantly, about the customers who put them where they are.

I'm one who believes that every customer should be treated equally well, and that the restaurants' good service, and their facilities should be available to everyone who pays their prices, no questions asked. Service standards should not be based on the best interest of the employees, but on the customers'. Otherwise everyone loses, from the employees, to the customers, and the restaurant itself.

With this in mind, and based on information meticulously gathered last month at various social encounters, I created a list of the main 20 reasons why people would stop going to a restaurant, or even worse, would give it a bad rap.

1. Bad food (of course)

2. Not letting people sit where they want unless they have dinner (and the waitress explaining that "those who have dinner - not just appetizers - leave more tips"

3. Lousy service

4. Not bringing water when customers are seated

5. Servers and managers chatting with customers, as opposed to serving

6. Charging for to-go containers

7. Burning the food

8. Cutting too many corners

9. Split plate charges

10. Not reminding large groups (6+) that the service charge is already included in the total

11. Dirty restrooms

12. Turning people away before their closing time

13. Bringing cold food from the kitchen

14. Chipped porcelain and/or dirty silverware and table clothes

15. Strange "findings" in the food

16. Overpricing

17. Waitperson's poor personal appearance and manners

18. Overall lack of cleanliness

19. Waitperson's lack of proper training

20. Slow service

(Thank you to those who contributed their opinions.)

These reasons would somewhat vary if we were in Mexico, where flavor takes precedence over what are considered "less important things". The list would be a lot shorter.

Here is the perfect example, and my recommendation for a Mexican Taqueria; Lilly's Taqueria . You guessed it - they only sell …tacos. Lilly’s is located right where the freeway meets Chapala Street in Santa Barbara.

The place is not particularly pretty, although it is very clean. There are no waitresses, but you get your food as soon as you finish ordering it. And, they serve you on paper plates, but the ingredients and the flavors are high quality and very traditional. At a price of $1.49 per taco, you cannot believe the quality of their meat.

Now, if you are a taste bud adventurer, Lilly’s Taqueria is the best place to try some Mexican cuisine meat delicacies, and order some “lengua (tongue), cachete (cheek), or tacos de ojo (eye ball)”. Daring huh? Mmmm…mmmm

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective

Cross-published at