A note to readers out there:
The actual name of the doctor has been replaced in this post and in the accompanying comments from those who have been following this discussion. I would like to state that none of the concerned parties in relation to this post have contacted me regarding this move.
By highlighting this situation, it is in the interest of concerned parents to know that such an occurrence is not unlikely in Japan (or anywhere else in the world for that matter). Hopefully, by bringing this incident to your attention, parents can learn from the pitfalls, form opinions and set expectations about what is required from healthcare professionals (doctors and hospitals alike) before finding yourselves in a similar situation.
To set the record straight, our experiences so far with the clinic staff and the other doctors whom we had seen previously were always satisfactory without any glitches. It is in our opinion that the clinic is still one of the best choices for foreigners in Tokyo.
I would like to thank everyone who has responded and left a comment so far, especially Woodrow Martin who got the discussion ball rolling.
(23 March 2010)
Our experience with Dr XXX from Tokyo Medical & Surgical Clinic over the weekend left such a bad taste in our mouths that i feel other parents should know this.
Our 2 year old daughter fell and hit her head with great force on a sharp edge of a stone corner along a pavement yesterday. As it was Sunday, we called the clinic’s emergency telephone number to obtain the on-call doctor’s contact number and this was how the phone conversation went (thanks to the history list on my mobile phone, i could get the exact times and durations of the phone calls!):
At 12.00pm, i contacted the on-call doctor, Dr XXX, and was asked the questions below (my answers follow the questions):
- How long ago did this happen? 10 mins ago.
- Is she vomitting? “No”.
- Did she lose consciousness? “No, but she seems sleepy/quiet.”
- Is there any laceration? “There is some bleeding, a small hole and an inward depression on the wound.”
- Can she move her limbs? She’s not moving much which is very unusual.
I was told to observe her and Dr XXX then spent the next half of the conversation emphasizing several times that the clinic was currently closed and made it very clear that she could not see us. Obviously she felt it unnecessary for further medical attention.
The entire call lasted 4 minutes.
6 minutes later at 12.10pm, Dr XXX called back but i was not able to answer the call. We were busy trying to arrange for our daughter to receive further medical attention. At 12.29pm, I returned her call only to be told that she could see my child and that she was already in the clinic. She had a 1pm appointment with another patient so therefore, she could see us at the clinic before or after the 1pm patient. Somehow, between 12.04pm and 12.10pm, she apparently changed her mind and suddenly could see us at the clinic. Why else would she called me back? For obvious reasons, we did not take up her offer.
The next morning, the clinic called up to inform us that we would be billed for the “phone consult”. I was disgusted. It was not the fact that we had to pay (our insurance company pays for it anyway), but more so the fact that after spending half the time trying to convince us that the clinic was closed and that we could not see her, Dr XXX apparently changed her mind barely a few minutes later and offered us the opportunity to bring our child to her. If she did not have another patient to see at 1pm, would she have offered to see us at the clinic?
I have worked with trauma doctors for several years before. No one (especially doctors!) needs to be told that serious head injuries may involve injuries to the brain. The only way to assess the extent of seriousness is to do so with a face-to-face examination before any respectable conclusion can be made. Difficulty breathing, shock, spinal injuries, and severe bleeding are all life-threatening injuries that may occur along with a head injury and require immediate medical attention. Injuries to the spine, especially the neck, must be considered when a head injury has occurred. It is impossible to assess all these things through a phone call.
On the bright side, we managed to get our daughter to appropriate medical attention at Daikanyama Medical Clinic in Daikanyama Plaza on that Sunday (It’s in the same building as Daikanyama Dental Clinic and Hillsideview Orthodontic Office directly opposite Daikanyama Tokyu Apartment) . By this time, our daughter was already complaining of a headache, the bleeding did not stop and the swelling had spread to her nose. The clinic was equipped with an x-ray machine and a CT scan. There, our child received a proper medical assessment, a CT scan to confirm for any internal bleeding or skull fracture, and had her wound attended to. The receptionist there spoke very limited English but Dr Yasuyuki Ueki was able to communicate well in English.
Parents may want to note also that The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents contact their child’s healthcare provider for advice for anything more than a light bump on the head.
This being said, most head injuries are usually mild and not associated with brain injury or long-term complications. Very rarely, children with more significant injuries may develop serious complications (eg, brain injury or bleeding around the brain).
However, as a parent, would you take the chance and rather downplay your child’s head injury instead of getting it physically assessed? Well, Dr XXX was certainly more than willing and very quick to take this chance with our child.
Filed under: Medical