Tuesday, June 19

A poem for today.

A friend shared this poem with me and through her I got permission from the author to share it here. The author, Dr. Katherine Ottaway, works as an MD in the Pacific Northwest.

This poem gives a loving doctor's perspective on the whole managed care debacle. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to post it. (Dr. Ottaway gives any blogger permission to pubish btw, so feel free to copy and post it yourself as long as she is shown as the author.)

Quota by Dr. Katherine Ottaway

I feel despair
when I try
to think about the new schedule

Twenty four slots
Of 20 minutes
See three people
For 40 minutes
Twenty on the schedule
Pray for two no shows

Unanswered questions
Wake me Sunday morning
If I am called to a labor patient
Must I make up that clinic face time?
What of holidays?
The clinic is closed.
Night call is nowhere addressed
Will they hire more and more
Who don't take call
Until I am the last woman standing
Red rimmed eyes staring
Numb with fatigue

What of my nearly deaf patient
Who reads lips
May we take forty minutes?
All the fairly deaf elderly?
New parents, anxious
Questions pour out like
Coins from a jackpot win
What of the tearful brokenhearted
And anxious?
I shrink at the thought
Of crushing their hearts
Into twenty minutes

And what if I am sick?
(no paid leave)
If I cancel clinic
For illness
Do I make up those days
A quota of patient face days

I am in the factory
The mines
People are the shirts I must sew
The tons of coal I must load
I must meet a quota

Doctors die younger
Our life is measured out
In patients

I won't let the quota
Kill my love

Katherine Ottaway


  1. this is really good and sadly true for all health care providers.

    i'm putting it on my blog.
    people need to read this poem.


  2. Tragic. Heart-breaking.

    And so unnecessary. We could and can do so much better. And yet we still claim to be a "religious" nation.

  3. I have friends who are RNs and the stories they can tell are horrifying.

    Shouldn't happen HERE!

  4. Angelic author.

    Damnable situation.

    Traveling Man

  5. Anonymous6:11 PM

    "I shrink at the thought
    Of crushing their hearts
    Into twenty minutes...

    "...I won't let the quota
    Kill my love."

    God bless her, and God help us all, as we and our parents and our children are crushed into that box.

    We MUST INSIST on something better.

  6. Katherine Ottaway will be published on Thursday.

  7. Anonymous11:30 PM

    Okay, y'all convinced me. I blogged it. Bit different take on it.

  8. I am deeply saddened by this important work of great dramatic impact.

  9. Fine piece.

    Thank you.


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