Croatia has a problem with time. And organization, but let’s stick with time. So, I just wrapped up the exam period at the university. And you know what happened? The same thing that always happens when I’m scheduled to give an exam. Students sign up, but they don’t show up. Three times in a little over a month I had students’ names appear on the list of those taking the exam, and three times the same students never appeared. Now, I don’t want to be all American and say time is money, but you know time is… well, time.
Yes, it’s my job to give exams, but, I can’t give an exam to a student who never shows up. But I still have to be there. I still have to print the test out and sit patiently waiting to see if they will show up. This last exam period, I at least had a few students show up, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. But the same students who’d signed up for the previous two periods, didn’t show up. Having a professor’s exam and time be so optional feels like it degrades the whole university system.
Aside from the situation at the university, there is a similar, though bigger issue at Croatia’s hospitals. I have a doctor friend who explained to me that he’ll be scheduled to do ten or so procedures in the morning and only five people will actually show up. This is ridiculous in a country that is witnessing some very long waitlists for medical procedures. Apparently you can wait as long as 657 days for certain procedures at certain hospitals. So, those five no-shows could’ve been spaces for five would-shows.
The problem is that there are no negative repercussions for not showing up. My students just get to sign up next time to take the exam (a total of 8 times). And the patient gets to reschedule her appointment. In what world does this make sense? Think of any other situation in life where you say you’re going to show up, but don’t, and you don’t face any negative consequences. You wouldn’t do it on a date, you wouldn’t do it at work, and you wouldn’t do it to your friends, so why as a society is it acceptable at universities and hospitals? Especially, when we know it leads to all kinds of dysfunction in the health care system?
Make ‘em pay
The solution is, obviously, to make people pay for not showing up. If you schedule an appointment at the hospital and fail to show, you should have to pay a fine. If you sign up for the exam and fail to make it, you have to pay. The amount doesn’t have to be a lot. Money, believe it or not, is great at creating incentives and disincentives.
I want to protect the planet, but until the grocery store made me pay five kuna for a plastic bag, I never brought my own. Now I always do. Let’s do the same for education and healthcare. Let it be non-payer if you show up when you say you’re going to. After that, you have to pay. I’d put the fine around 100 kuna. Not enough to go broke, but enough that you don’t want to spend it for not showing up. It’s time that we realize that time itself is a resource that shouldn’t be exploited.