So what was the “official” reason? I asked, stoking thin air with the middle and index fingers of both my hands to denote the quotation marks.

“I guess I endangered a patient’s life by sending her to see a cardiologist,” snorted Debbie, sarcastically, her face still hard with anger, dark eyes nearly blazing.

There was a moment of silence between us while her words soaked in.

Then, despite the worry of being unemployed in the worst economy of our lifetimes, despite the unjust nature of working in medicine, despite small personalities with big titles—the ridiculousness of the whole thing stuck us and we began to laugh.

Yep. Yesterday my wife got fired. Her unforgivable sin: She put a patient’s welfare before the almighty dollar; and in modern American health care, you might as well throw yourself under a metaphorical bus.

Here’s what happened: Last week a regular patient came into the private practice medical clinic where Debs worked until yesterday. This woman was having surgery in a little over a week, and at the pre-op appointment the surgeon had detected an enlarged heart. He told her he’d feel better if she had a visit with a cardiologist before the cut her open.

The patient wanted to know if she could get a referral. Debbie knew that, unless you are on a gurney being unloaded from an ambulance, the odds of getting in to see a cardiologist in less than a week are a zillion-to-one. Still, she told the patient she see what she could do. Debs called the cardiologist’s people who normally would have laughed until they threw up. However, apparently God loves this woman. The cardiologist’s office had just received a cancellation. Debbie’s patient could have it, but they needed a referral ASAP.

Debbie booked the appointment for the patient, filled out all the paper work and took it to one of her providers and explained what was up: regular patient, surgery in a … Read the Rest

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