THE PATIENCE OF THE IMPATIENT PATIENT
In big red digital letters the screen reads: ‘Patients who are ten minutes late for their appointment may not be seen.’
So, if I’m late the doctor has the right to refuse to see me – what reciprocal right do I have? I mean if he’s ten minutes late for the appointment can I fine him? Go home and demand another appointment?
No, it’s all self-defeating.
All the rights go one way. Argue and you can be arrested, kicked out and find yourself doctorless. And why? Because there is another sign that says that staff and doctor’s have the right not to suffer abuse at the hands of aggrieved patients.
Well, my appointment was for 4pm and I arrived 5 minutes ago – now it is ten past 4.
Should have brought a book.
Still, there is plenty to read – like the reassuring posters on the wall. ‘Free hearing test if you are over fifty five’: ‘That Pain Could Have A Name’: ‘Blood in your poo – talk to a doctor before it is too late’ and the adverts for things like MacMillan Trust and Specsavers.
Then there are the magazines. Bella, Best, My Weekly, and Take A Break – I’d be in my element if I was a woman. But who reads things like ‘My Mother Sold Me For A Packet Of Fags’ or ‘I thought my father was really my husband’ – a mistake easily made I suppose though I have no desire to find out which he was.
Buried amongst all this is a ‘National Graphic’ magazine. Great article on Angel Fish with lots of pretty pictures. If I wanted to look at Angel Fish then I’d buy an aquarium.
Quarter past 4.
The TV screen invites me to see a nurse for a check for Chlamydia; followed by a spooky silent film about depression. And then there is the message that there has been a road accident on the A146. All of these things put together reminds me of a song – yes, ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’. Ian Dury and The Blockheads.
I start humming ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ to angry glares.
If I was a kid I could go rooting around in the toy box at the back of the waiting room.
The screen lights up: Mr John Smith to Room J – Nurse Annie.
Lucky Mr Smith.
Reminds me of a book .What was her name? Rosie Dixon, Night Nurse that was it – Rosie Dixon the female version of Timothy Lea who’s Confessions Of A Window Cleaner was widely read by many a young schoolboy – and watched by men in long raincoats in the cinema.
A thought that provokes a laugh – but I don’t share the joke with the grim faced audience that is either engrossed in magazines or watching one of the screens.
4:20 and my doctor is ready to see Linda Green.
I am tempted to demand that the doctor makes a new appointment with me – one that he can keep.
Someone does go to the desk to complain.
The doctor is running behind – an attack of diahorea, maybe? No further explanation is forthcoming. The receptionist glares at the elderly patient daring her to kick off. She backs down and shuffles back to take her seat. The receptionist returns to her crossword puzzle.
4:25 and Linda Green is out. That was a quick in and out – just like that – and she has a big smile on her face. One satisfied patient, then.
5 minutes pass....time enough for another reminder that patients shouldn’t use the doctor’s parking spaces. A misplaced apostrophe has me questioning just how many parking spaces the doctor needs.
The thought crosses my mind that maybe the doctor’s having a quick fag outside in one of his parking spaces. Might need a bit of down time after the last patient.
Okay – thinking process getting a little out of hand.
There goes that Chlamydia advert again....bad timing.
4:31 and Elsie Jones is invited into the doctor’s office.
I watch her shuffle slowly, her metal walking stick chinking away. It has taken her two minutes to get from her seat at the back to disappear through the door leading to the various surgeries.
The waiting room is empty.
I am the last patient.
After 50 minutes waiting for the 4pm appointment, I walk into the doctor’s surgery.
“Hi, Mr Balcombe,” the doctor beams at me. “How are you today?”
Inanely, I reply: “Fine.”
What a stupid thing to say. If I was fine then what was I doing there.
“So what’s the problem?” he wonders out loud as he studies my notes on a computer screen.
I avoid the temptation to tell him that I think that I have Chlamydia. Just able to check myself as I realise that for 50 minutes I have been brainwashed into a state of hypochondria.
“I’m here about the results of the tests,” I prompt instead. “I did phone but was told to make an appointment.”
He peers closer at the screen; fiddles with the mouse and highlights something. He frowns; glances seriously at me.
I prepare for the worst....but then he smiles.
“All clear,” he grins. “You’re fit as a fiddle.”
And I waited 50 minutes for something that he could have told me over the phone.
50 minutes of my life wasted.
Next time I’m coming armed with a book and an iPod – and you can bet that before I’ve plugged in the ear phones and started on page one the sign will light up with ‘The doctor will see you now’.
First broadcast on Felixstowe Radio 19th March 2014
Copyright Ray Foster 2013