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Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hospitals I have waited in

It appears to be a fundamental truism that on average one must visit a hospital at least every 18 months (obviously a bit more often for health care professionals). On this occasion you must sit and wait for a period of no less than two hours. The most recent of these for me was at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick. The staff were excellent the best of them being the attending doctor, despite looking about 12 years old, it was a privilege to watch him work. However...

I despise waiting and I'm not fond of hospitals. Eventually, no matter how serious the reason for being in a hospital, you attempt to alleviate the anxious tedium of the waiting room by entering into an advanced level of schadenfreude in the form of a guessing game:

"Ooh, look at the one in the pink dressing gown! Bloodshot eyes, barely able to stand and carrying a bucket of puke. The dreaded lurgy or a cry for help?"

This is particularly true of accident and emergency wards where there is an additional element added to the game necessarily added by the triage process. Patients are rated into [it'll all end in] tiers to denote how urgent their treatment is and to allow the staff to prioritise the right people:

  1. About to die. Intensive care required with the possibility that bits might need to be sewn back on.
  2. In immediate danger, could be a bit messy, attending doctor should be prepared to get sticky
  3. Pretty bloody urgent but not in immediate danger. They'll be OK for 10 minutes but keep an eye on 'em
  4. "You nailed what? To where?! Ate/drank what? You dipstick."
  5. Take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning
  • Anything else - sticking plaster with mickey mouse on it and Mummy kiss it better.

You rarely see tier 1 or 2s in the waiting room. The helicopter/ambulance crew generally having scraped enough of them together for a delivery direct to the ICU (I wonder if the same rules as pizza apply here; if you wait more than half an hour do you get your treatment free?). You do see some tier 3s and some very funny high-end tier 4s. The best of which this time round was a very south American sounding man who was dragged in across the shoulders of his girlfriend, his eyes not focused and not quite capable of standing on his own.

Eee ate a mushroom in the bush and now ee is intoxicated!
A magic mushroom?
No, jus a mushroom. In the woods.

The idiot was dragged away to have his stomach pumped. Sadly my first thought was "we are interfering with natural selection and I'm not sure we should have on this occasion".

Whilst I understand that the position of triage nurse calls for an extremely grounded and pragmatic personality the two on duty here could have used a gentle reminder about privacy. One poor girl, brought in doubled up in pain, was shut in the consulting room to preserve her dignity, but not before the nurse had bellowed out that treatment would be "stuck in your bottom". I presumed it was an intramuscular injection but who knows, a dill pickle suppository may be more effective.

Probably the stand-out moment though was when we actually sitting in the ward waiting for everyone to be in the same place at the same time again. A & E wards are terrifying places at the best of times and this one has good road links to most of the eastern side of Sydney, and a helipad on the roof. The majority of patients were elderly brought in with suspected heart attacks but there were some in there who had clearly been spread across the road only an hour or so earlier.

The unseen octogenarian in the next cubicle over was having a tough time of it. The doctor returned to him and explained that he was going to have to do a rectal exam; "what that means is...". There was a rustling of sheets and a short, utterly silent pause. And then, "ooooh, aaaaarghhh, oooh!". I would have laughed out loud had they not been talking about a full blood transfusion to keep him alive.