Wednesday, 28 March 2012


An all too familiar scene awaits us as we swing open the door to the doctors' surgery. A waiting room full of coughing, spluttering children, parents losing the battle between enforced immobility and a pile of old toys that have all seen better days. A receptionist pretending to work sits at the front desk playing Spider Solitaire on the computer.

"One of your doctors has called for an ambulance?"

In one swift movement and a click of the mouse the green, card-bearing screen disappears and a computerised table of doctors and appointments appears in its place.

"One of the doctors, eh? The doctors don't do anything here without my say so. Who called you do you think? The doctor, or me? They can't dial anything on their phones without it going through me. First they dial 'zero' to get an outside line and only if I approve it can they make a call."

She barely takes a breath and any attempt to stem the flow is like the little boy with his finger in the dam.

"You know what, they probably don't even need you, they're forever calling ambulances these doctors. They've got no idea what they're doing half the time. Covering their own backsides just to be a pain in mine. I mean, it's not as if they actually make the calls themselves or have to sit watching all these people come in and out, day in - day out, with their coughs and colds and ear aches and ingrowing toe nails. Do you even know what an ingrowing toenail looks like? Have you ever seen one? They're gross, I tell you, but they don't really need a doctor, do they? Just pull it out themselves."

Just for a second, she stops, but before answering the question of where the patient is, the engine starts up again and heads straight into top gear.

"And this one, the one you're here for, do you know what's wrong with them? Nothing! Nothing, I tell you. Came in feeling dizzy, pretending he can't stand up, leaning on their friend, or wife, or girlfriend or whatever that slummy looking woman was. Torn jeans and a see through white t-shirt with a fluorescent pink bra. Who goes out like that? And to a doctor's surgery, no less! I'm surprised she was strong enough to hold him up anyway. He's about six foot, she's only about five. He's probably just faking it for the attention."

She pauses and picks up the phone, pressing just a single button.

"Did you call an ambulance?" From our side, the answer is inaudible, but obvious.

"Well why didn't you tell me? I should have placed the call, not you. How was I supposed to know where to send them?" Yet more one sided silence.

"Next time, make sure you let me do the ambulance arranging." Then, looking back at us, she finally gives us directions.

"Room eight. Down the corridor, second door on the right. It says Dr. Craig on the door, but actually it's Dr. Iain that you're seeing. And don't let the patient give you any sob stories, alright? I know what they're like round here."

We were already half way down the corridor as she finished her last sentence, but still she made sure it was heard. The door opened before we even had the chance to knock and the tall, balding doctor introduced himself and the patient.

"Hi guys, I'm Dr. Iain. This young man is Adam. He came in complaining of severe dizziness. I've called you because he really can't walk unaided, and I've referred him to hospital. It looks like he's got two ruptured ear-drums."

"Both ear-drums?"

"Certainly looks like it. Some accident at work. He's a little bit coy about it all."

"I doubt it was work related. I reckon he must have just been talking to your receptionist."


Anonymous said...

was the last line what you actually said, or what you thought / wish you said?

InsomniacMedic said...

There is the very distinct possibility that I may have accidentally engaged mouth before brain. Just on this occasion...

Geoff said...

lol, I hate it when my filter doesn't engage! But I hate it more when Healthcare workers ignore the needs of their patients because they think their FOS, But I really get steamed when the receptionist or insurance clerk or un-trained patient transporter thinks that they have the same "right" due to their position of relative "authority"!

Rachel Wires said...

Sounds like someone was having a power trip that day.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, my bugbear. My GP receptionist told me yesterday that it wasn't possible for me to have an appointment and that I couldn't have a phone consultation. She demanded to know what I wanted so I used long words and blood result numbers, then I told her about just having finished brain radiotherapy and how I need prescription only sunscreen for the next year or so.

Her response? "who said you need prescription sun cream? you can buy sun cream in any shop"

So I told her to pass on the message. This morning the same receptionist called me back. to say that my GP has prescribed me sun cream and I can collect it from the pharmacy. Each word sounded like an effort!

Good on you for saying something about the one you encountered.