Hospital dermatology rules need reviewing


To the Editor:

I had occasion to make an appointment with the dermatology department at the Island’s hospital. I am a 90-year-old male with skin problems. As I had a recent appointment in the past three months, and had a second one listed for December, I was told I could not get one before that December date unless it was identified by a nurse as a problem that is critically suspect. The receptionist asked what I had. I said I was bothered by a node on my head, but had other problems too. She booked me in to see the nurse, and if it proved it needed attention, they would book me an appointment in September. I had to first come in and let a nurse photograph it.

I came in and was greeted by a newly made over-facility, clearly labeled “Dermatology,” with a large receptionist office on one side of the corridor and a 12-foot by 12-foot new waiting area with lots of seating, with a door leading into a long corridor with what appeared to have six or more consulting rooms. A major change over the cramped two or three exam rooms and two-chair wait area.

I thought to myself, They must have a group of new dermatologists to justify this expansion, but that is not the case. Showing up for my appointment to have a photo of the misbehaving growth on my head was all that was going to happen. When I suggested I had other problems to be looked at, it was NO! 

The nurse made it clear that the one photo was all that was going to happen. The Rules! If my one photo was deemed to qualify, I would get a call to set up the appointment. These are the rules she again made clear. Only one photo. You have a full appointment in December. 

I got a call about a week later saying the photoed item needed attention. I could have a September appointment. I said if I come to the September appointment, can you look at my other problems too? “Absolutely not” she stated clearly, and again reiterated that I have a full appointment in December. I attempted to explain, if I had to come to the hospital and was able to get in to see the dermatologist, I could not understand why all of my weird growths could not be looked at. 

It made no sense. Both of us in the same room, the same time. The normal session lasted only 10 to 15 minutes. These are “the rules,” she reiterated for the third time.

I had to come in and be photoed, and come in again in September, to get this one dealt with, and hope that I can live long enough to keep the December appointment for the other problems.

I had a dermatologist in Florida, a Harvard graduate, and classmate of our local dermatologist. He would give me an appointment on the same day or the next day. When I told him about the difficult situation on the Cape and Islands, he would tell me, Someone could die or be very much worse off if they had to wait that long to see me.

As I now see it, the local dermatologist rules are placing me in a very uncomfortable position.

Not wanting to make a trip off-Island, but left with no alternative, I called over to the receptionist at Dr. Mark Liska’s dermatologist office in North Falmouth, and was told I could come in that afternoon. When I explained that I lived on the Vineyard, she asked me what day I would like, and we agreed on the very next week.

Why would the local hospital create this new dermatology physical space if all is to remain the same for the Island patients? Why is this department operated in such an arbitrary way? I am sure they think this is working in their patients’ best interest, but is it really?


Leo Convery