Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas patient's patience runs out
Man sues doctor for three-hour wait
By JOELLE BABULA
Aristotelis Belavilas stands outside his business Monday afternoon.
The 58-year-old sued his doctor after he spent nearly four hours in
the waiting room.
Craig L. Moran.
Las Vegan Aristotelis Belavilas got so fed up waiting three hours to see his
doctor for his back pain that he stormed out of the office without getting
Then the 58-year-old sued. He asked for $5,000. It wasn't
about the money, he said, but to "teach the doctor a lesson" about treating
patients with respect and compassion.
Last week, he was awarded $250 in small claims court.
Local physicians say they fear the ruling will set a
"This really makes my hair stand up," said Ed Kingsley,
president of the Clark County Medical Society. "We're already so worried about
liability, and to know that we now can get sued for keeping our patients waiting
too long in the waiting room is upsetting and it's discouraging."
Belavilas said his doctor "didn't say he was sorry and that
he was with another patient or that he had gotten a flat tire, nothing. I
decided to sue him because my time is worth something just like his is."
The physician, pain management specialist Ty Weller, said
he's rarely more than a half hour late and that Belavilas' long wait was an
exception. He said he tried to book Belavilas for a day when he wasn't so busy,
but that Belavilas insisted on having the procedure the day before he went on
vacation to Greece.
Belavilas in February was scheduled to have a steroid
injection in his spine to combat back pain. The injection was scheduled for 2
p.m. but Weller didn't show up until 5:15.
"I overbooked myself to accommodate him and then another
patient took longer than expected and then all day long I was trying to catch
up," Weller said. "I can't hurry a patient along who needs my attention just to
be on time."
Weller said he was backed up on that particular day because
he was forced to travel to four different surgery centers to see patients. He
treats patients at different centers depending on the patient's insurance. He
also said that his staff kept Belavilas apprised of where he was and that he was
going to be late.
"When I arrived he was very angry and wanted to leave,"
Weller said. "I told him if he wants to go, he can and he was very insulted by
that. He was very upset that I didn't apologize."
Larry Matheis, executive director of the Nevada State
Medical Association, said it's important for doctors to explain to their
patients why they are kept waiting. He said the lawsuit is a warning to doctors
that patients are getting frustrated with long waits.
"Often doctors get in a hurry and, rather than explain to a
patient why they are late, they just go right to the treatment," Matheis said.
"When you don't explain, resentment builds."
Doctors say they expect patient wait times to continue to
grow and are a symptom of an ailing health care system.
"Our malpractice rates are going up, our rent is going up,
our office overhead is going up but our reimbursements are going down," said
Rudy Manthei, chairman of the group Keep Our Doctors in Nevada. "The only way to
make it is to overbook patients and see as many as we can."
Members of the group Keep Our Doctors in Nevada are
proponents of state tort reform and caps on medical malpractice awards.
Weller plans to appeal the decision, made by attorney
Thomas Kurtz, in small claims court. He's been ordered to pay a total of $365 to
cover Belavilas' judgment and court fees.
"Even more important than the money is that now I have to
worry about other patients doing this to me," Weller said. "I'm just appalled by