The day before we closed for the holy week break, we received a call while I was working on a patient. It was around 4:30 pm, a certain lawyer called and begged to be given an appointment at 6:00 pm because her crown (with post) came off. Mid-patient, I was sincerely dying to get rested for the day, but I agreed to see her because it was an emergency case. Also, I thought maybe it was a simple re-cementation job, so I told my assistant I would see her--one quick one and then we could all go home happy.
The patient arrived at 7:00 pm (an hour late) with her husband, child and the nanny. They were too nice, a little chatty, but the need was real so I was glad I agreed to see her. It wasn't a simple re-cementation case, by the way. The little boy did a solid head-butt on his mom and her crown came flying out of her mouth (the post in tow). Hopeful, they scoured the street to find it, but it was nowhere to be found. Anyway, I noted multiple problems with her front teeth (including the need for a root canal on another tooth) but that was for another appointment, and I proceeded to address the pressing issue. She came in, toothless (a face mask covering her mouth) and she was desperate "to have her tooth back" for the holy week--so I worked some dental magic and restored her smile.
I dismissed her with a temporary crown and took a mould to have my laboratory fabricate a brand new crown for her. I worked on the case for two hours, I finished at 9:00 pm, tired but happy to have helped her.
|This is my clinic, specifically the Treatment Room. I have two chairs and I worked on the lawyer in the green chair.|
After I work on a patient, I dismiss them to the reception area while I chart the procedure. As usual, I gave it to Monique when I was done and as my assistant (and dental secretary) she took the chart and presented it to the patient. It is a routine we've mastered, but when she collected the fee, the husband said: "I will come back tomorrow, after lunch". I heard it--it did not register right away, but suddenly the guy was in front of me, shaking my hand and thanking me. I didn't know what to do. Maybe I was too knackered to be rude or too wasted to think ill of anyone, but after they left Monique and I couldn't believe what happened. We worked for two hours and we didn't get paid. Ouch!
The Morning After
The following day I decided to message the patient around 11:00 am and the following was the exchange I had with her:
Crix: Good morning. This is Dr. Crickette Inserto, may I know what time you would be coming by to settle your treatment fees from last night?
Patient: Will be there after lunch.
Crix: Okay. Thanks. See you.
Around 3:00pm, I received a text.
Patient: Hi Dr. Crickette. Good pm. This is Atty ____. I won't be able to come on time before your closing today. I'm still in Makati for a board meeting. If it's okay, please text me your bank account details. I'll just have my staff deposit the money. Will send you thru MMS deposit slip for your confirmation. Please and thank you.
Crix: Yes please, thanks. I also have Viber. (Bank Account Details). I believe Metrobank cutoff is at 4:30 pm. Thanks.
Around 5:10, without any MMS, Viber message or update, I decided to text again because it was my birthday that day and I had to leave for dinner.
Crix: Have you made the deposit? I am heading out early today because I have dinner plans. Should I leave my assistant instructions to wait for you? I am sorry to be asking you, but I don't know whether I'm supposed to ask her to stay or go home. We are closing for the holiday and will resume office on Monday.
Patient: Not yet. Will deposit by Monday nalang.
Crix: Okay. God bless and happy holy week.
After Holy Week
It's been two weeks and I still haven't heard from her. When I came back Monday (after holy week), I decided I wouldn't message her anymore because I felt that doing so would seem like I was begging and I didn't want to do that. In my mind, she came in with a face mask because she couldn't show her toothless grin in public and I worked "dental magic" to produce a tooth for her just like that--so she knew what I had done for her. She needed my help and even if I was tired, I took her in because it was an emergency. She knew what I did for her, it was a good job too, and when the temporary crown breaks in a few days or weeks she will remember me (but I'm sure she will not contact me anymore).
Tuesday 31st of March, the morning after, I pulled out her case from the laboratory and told them not to proceed with the work. I told Monique we'd wait for her payment--and since it never came, the case is left untouched.
To confirm her identity, I visited Google (my pal) and I saw her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin. She is really a lawyer--so I am reminded of my mom's constant statement when we were growing up: "Lawyers are liars". Okay, lawyer friends and readers, I said I am reminded of a statement--I did not say think you are ALL LIARS (because my best friend's husband is a lawyer and he is the best). But really, I just feel bad about what happened. I mean, I've had bouncing cheques before or patients with balances left unsettled, but none who actually came in demanding treatment with no intention of paying. I feel so bad because I wasn't smart enough to collect some kind of collateral (an ID card, cellphone or ATM) and I feel so bad because she is a professional and worst, she is a mother so I fear for her son. You know what, my clinic is along Timog Avenue and that street is a wide stretch of banks so they could've withdrawn some money (while I was slaving for two hours), but they didn't.
|The work we do is not glamorous. Some people think it is, but when you're in this position for a long time, it does a number on your neck and back. N.B. This is me working on a different patient.|
So, what do you do when patients don't pay you? Well, rest assured, Monique and I agreed to never let this happen to us anymore. We'll charge this to experience--at least nothing bad happened to us, right? For now, I'll just wish her well. The post I installed will survive a long time but the composite (resin) crown will disintegrate in a few days or weeks. It wasn't meant to last, but she'll just have to get her crowns somewhere else. Maybe she'll trick another dentist, but I hope for her son, that she wouldn't.