The UK are lucky to have the NHS, with junior doctors and nurses working unbelievably long hours, in stressful conditions for little pay. However, another hospital visit this week has opened my eyes (literally) 😀 to how a little common-sense instead of nonsensical regulations, could drastically improve the lot of both patients and staff. The thought inspired this short story. ‘Janet Smith? You’re next.’
Is it possible to mumble and shout at the same time? Jean Smythe, waiting patiently in a wheelchair, looked around the crowded hospital waiting room to see if anyone had responded to the sound of their name.
‘Excuse me. Did you hear what she said?’ Jean asked the person nearest to her.
‘I’m not sure,’ was the reply. ‘It was something “Smith” but she turned away too quickly to catch it properly. You could ask the receptionist.’
‘Yes, but I can’t get over there by myself. Never mind. I think she’s coming back.’
‘Brighton Wright?’ At least that’s what it sounded like before the nurse again turned on her heel and disappeared. Jean wondered what had happened to “Janet Smith.” Perhaps it had been meant for her and she had missed her turn? After a few more minutes, someone else in a uniform passed close enough for Jean to attract their attention.
‘Excuse me. I’m not sure if I’ve just been called. Is it possible to find out, please?’
‘You’ll need to ask a nurse. Or reception might know.’ With that she was gone.
The transport had arrived to pick Jean up two hours before her eleven o’clock appointment, but after checking her in, had left to collect other patients. It was now nearly mid-day and she had been sitting there for well over two hours. Perhaps she had missed her turn? Another nurse appeared, again at the farthest point from where Jean was sitting. Did they never venture over to her side? With her head down and carrying a large bundle of brown files, she was totally oblivious when Jean waved to catch her attention. There was nothing else for it, however embarrassing it might be.
‘Hello,’ Jean called, then again in a louder voice when there was no response. ’Hello. Excuse me. I need some help. Could you come over here a minute please?’ The woman glanced up but carried on walking. By now Jean was getting angry. Had she been delivered to a zombie hospital by mistake?
Another name was being called, and losing her patience Jean yelled again, ignoring the heads turning in her direction to see what the fuss was about. Without a word, but with a look of disdain on her face, the assistant merely pointed towards the reception desk.
‘But I can’t get there without help, you stupid bitch,’ Jean muttered under her breath, now totally exasperated. She tried to gauge the distance to the reception desk. Maybe ten or fifteen yards? Struggling out of the wheelchair, she hoisted herself onto her crutches and began the slow, painful marathon towards the desk.
The receptionist was half hidden behind the dropped counter and appeared to be on the phone. Unsure how long she could stand, Jean leaned against the counter for support, waiting for the call to finish. Someone else appeared and dumped a pile of papers into a tray before glancing in Jean’s direction.
‘Could you not lean on the counter, please. She’s on the phone. She’ll be with you in a minute.’ With that they disappeared through a door at the back.
Almost in tears, Jean wondered what would happen if she collapsed and sank to the floor. ‘They’d probably step over me,’ she thought hysterically. ‘I think I must be invisible.’
‘Can I help you?’ the receptionist asked, without looking up from her computer.
‘Yes, I was wondering how much longer I’d have to wait. I’ve been here since ten.’
‘We’re very busy. Name? What’s your date of birth?’
As Jean reeled off the information the receptionist began typing before demanding, ‘Hospital number?’
‘It’s in my bag. Do you really need it? I thought the name and time of appointment might be enough for you to find my record.’
‘I need your hospital number.’
Trying to open her bag and find the paper whilst balancing on the crutches was no easy task, especially as Jean’s legs were now feeling like jelly.
‘You’re on the list. Take a seat and they’ll call you when they are ready.’
‘Have you any idea how long that will be? How many people are in front of me?’
With a deep sigh the woman went back to consulting her computer before replying. ‘You’re number five. About fifteen minutes. Take a seat and you’ll be called.’
‘Thank you,’ Jean managed between gritted teeth. As she turned away she noticed a water fountain and realised how thirsty she was. Fumbling to balance the plastic cup while holding onto the crutches, she succeeded in spilling most of the contents over her skirt. Retracing her steps, she sank exhausted onto the toilet seat to mop the worst of the dampness from her clothes. As she closed the lavatory door behind her, she caught the sound of her name being called.
‘That was three minutes, not fifteen,’ she muttered to herself as she collapsed back into the wheelchair. All thoughts of decorum long gone, she yelled in the general direction of the voice, ‘That’s me. I’ll need someone to push me.’
‘Hello. Jean? I’m Katie. Don’t rush. Take your time and get your breath back. Can you confirm your date of birth so I know I’ve got the right one? I’ll need to check your blood pressure and fill in a few forms before you see the doctor. Sorry about the long wait but another twenty minutes and you should be on your way. Ready? Off we go.’
‘At last, a human being,’ Jean thought, feeling her sanity slowly returning as Katie chatted cheerfully while pushing her towards the examination room.
Two months later Jean was back at the hospital; this time without the need for crutches, and seated in a comfortable armchair facing thirty or forty staff.
‘Good Morning. For those who don’t know me I’m Jean Smythe, and I was here a few weeks ago when you were all on duty. Patient number 8674/392Qz. Does anyone remember me?’
Jean’s question was met with blank faces, apart from the girl she recognised as Katie, who reluctantly raised her hand.
‘Aren’t you the lady in the wheelchair, who was kept waiting such a long time, even though you’d no one to help you?’
‘Yes, Katie, I was, until you kindly rescued me. I’m also the new owner and director of this facility.’
Turning to address the audience Jean continued. ‘Many of you started here when Project Efficiency was introduced. It has not proved successful, so with immediate effect it is being replaced by Project Humanity. Technology has moved on and I’m here to inform you that any Type IV non-human assistants will be recycled. Katie, you will be in charge of the new human resources intake, and your main responsibility will be to teach them compassion, and understanding for those less able.’
‘What about me? I’m not a robot,’ an anguished voice arose from the front row.
‘I believe there are five or six human members on the existing staff,’ Jean replied. ‘You will be retrained. Over the coming week you will spend one day in a wheelchair, one day blindfolded, one day unable to use your right arm and so on. There’s nothing like first-hand experience, and if it changes your attitude you will keep your jobs.
‘Any questions? Good. The new Nice Helpful Service begins tomorrow.’
© Voinks October 2018
On another note, I was delighted to receive this wonderful review of one of my books, ‘ABC Destiny’ from a well-known book blogger. You can read the full report here –
‘ABC Destiny’ review
Thanks for joining me.