Verbal Abuse Toward Staff

Q. A patient called a dental practice and tried to schedule an appointment for the following day regarding a routine matter. The receptionist politely informed the patient that there were no available appointments for the next day, but she told the patient that there were several times available for the following week. The patient became enraged and was verbally abusive towards the receptionist. The receptionist described the abuse as a “profanity-laced tirade.” The practice would like to discharge the patient; however, this patient has never exhibited this type of behavior with anyone else in the practice. Can the practice discharge the patient from care due to this incident?

A. Yes, so long as the practice can confirm that the patient was not undergoing any current treatments and no gaps and/or delays would occur because of the discharge from care. Abusive or disruptive behavior directed towards any staff member can constitute a serious disruption of the provider/patient relationship. Further, New York State requires all employers to maintain a safe and non-threatening workplace, and medical/dental practices are no exception.