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Opinion

Department of Health, do better

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Let me share with you my recent experience with the Mississippi Department of Health

It wasn’t good.

I entered a local business and needed to use the restroom. Now, they did have a restroom,  but it was blocked off by a large amount of back-stock and a sign on the door said to ask for the key.

I did.

The employee explained the restroom wasn’t working and that it was, in fact, filth-covered. I had the feeling this employee had explained this many, many times.

When I inquired about using the lady’s room or employee restroom the employee made it clear they had no functioning restrooms at that facility.

Functioning is the key word.

That concerned me for a few reasons.

One, what do employees working eight straight hours do if they have to use the restroom?

Two, I wondered if the employee was possibly lying to me and if so, why?

Three, I know people need to use the restroom all day every day.  Why is this a retail location that serves hundreds, maybe thousands of people a day, not allowing people in their restroom?

Whatever the cause, I wasn’t happy with it and felt the need to address it. So, as a starting point, I called the health department. I wound up calling 10 times.

This is not a misprint or error. I ended up calling the health department ten times before I had the satisfaction of completing a conversation on this issue.

The first call was quick and efficient and I explained to two people, the operator and whoever they transferred me to, what transpired. That person transferred me to a third person, presumably. Presumably, because no one picked up the line. After two minutes of listening to the line ring, I hung up and called back.

The second time I spoke with the same two people and when they transferred me to the person who could help me, again presumably, the line disconnected.

The third time I called we joked a bit about the problem, and this time the line disconnected before I got to the second person.

The fourth and fifth time I called there was some electronic flux that did allow me to speak with anyone. My first thought then was that I was in a bad location, but I literally had not moved and the phones worked efficiently enough to connect me the first two times I called. I kept calling and either got no answer or it would answer with no one there.

On the 10th attempt, an electronic message explained that I should hold the line and after eight minutes and twenty-six seconds Darlene picked up.

We had a short conversation where she explained that the building was closed and many people are working from their homes. Darlene didn’t know who was in their office and who was not. This is the age of COVID and that is a fair enough assessment.

Also, the Department of Health is doing the very best they can in difficult circumstances to help people with COVID shots. They are feeling the pressure and facing the dilemma many entities are facing. I have seen firsthand their efforts to get the shots complete and they, and their partners, are to be commended.

Regardless, they should be able to take calls at their main office.

Twelve minutes and something into my tenth call, Darlene addressed my complaint. It seems the health department has no control over the restroom at a retail facility, so she advised me to call their corporate office (I had already done that while on hold with the Mississippi Department of Health).

Darlene did. however, want to make sure I was transferred up the line to address my second concern. That is why it took 10 calls to actually speak to someone?

Jenny was the person lucky enough to speak with me seventeen minutes and thirty-nine seconds into my tenth call.

I couldn’t help but feel she wanted to do anything but speak with me. She must be the person who gets all the cranks and complainers. I spent a couple of minutes trying to explain the issue to her. She repeated herself a couple of times by asking the same question that I had just answered. She was obviously doing something else while taking my call because I had less than her full attention.

At this point, I identified myself as the publisher of the Vicksburg Daily News.

In retrospect, I feel I should have led with that publisher thing while speaking with Jenny because she perked right up. Seemingly, I had her full attention now. Miss Jenny was sweet as pie as she most politely asked me to hold while she transferred my call to media contact person Liz Charlotte.

Liz Charlotte was wonderful. She was a joy and gave me her numbers and apologized and we joked about the increasing importance of restrooms as we gracefully and flawlessly enter our senior years (me much sooner than her). It was an almost joyous celebration of life by two old souls sharing a moment.

So, being the reporter type, I had to bring back up that issue concerning the ten calls and my belief that little would have happened to correct the issue if I had stopped with Miss Jenny. Liz maintained her graceful composure while assuring me the issue would be taken seriously and addressed. Liz and I ended our delightful call an hour and four minutes after my first attempt to contact the Mississippi Department of Health.

As a citizen I was livid. I still am. There is no excuse for this happening.

At some point, I couldn’t help but feel there was a purposeful attempt to encourage me to hang up and give up.

But I persisted.

Phone log of calls to the Department of Health.

 

It is my sincere hope that those in charge of the Mississippi Department of Health understand the need to improve.

People take their health seriously and want to be a part of the solution. Our citizens are good people with good souls who want to feel safe at a restaurant, medical facility or with their drinking water.

If there is a problem citizens want to feel like they’ve done their civic duty by reporting the problem.

Mississippi Department of Health, let’s be better at taking care of our citizens. If we can’t even get to you on the phone then we don’t feel like you even care.

P.S. As this was sent off to the editor Liz Charlotte called me back. She reported that they called the number, themselves, several times and identified an issue that they are now correcting.

P.S.S. Don’t worry. I did eventually get to use a restroom.

 

 

 

 

 

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