I spent a few insightful hours in A&E yesterday evening with Eleanor who needed her drained out pretty urgently. That aside, I haven't been to an A&E department for long time. I had to think long and hard about when I last took that trip and it was back in 1993 when I cut the top of my thumb in half with a big serrated knife. Something to do with a very long serrated knife and a cabbage as I recall. The stitches hurt more than the original wound. Over the years, I have been there with the kids though - it's always fun going to A&E with the kids. Like the time one of them smashed herself on the top of the head with a swing and gashed herself open... when you go to A&E with kids you get asked some weird questions: "Is this really your daughter?"
"Where you alone with her at the time?"
"Has this happened before?"
You can only imagine. This is how they deal with children who might be in danger from their parents - I hope they catch some people like that but it seems mighty ineffectual to me if all you're doing is ticking boxes on a computer screen. It's pretty easy to lie to any of those questions if you were of such a mind. It probably doesn't help when a smart arse like me answers "Is this really your daughter?" with "I hope so..."
So... yesterday. A weird cast of characters as ever down there. A kid whose nose had been bleeding for over an hour, a girl who had swallowed a bead and a poor twenty something man who had a little cut on his head from football practice. There were at least three people with twisted ankles and probably the most serious, were the ones who didn't look like there was anything wrong. There was also a pregnant woman who had fallen down the stairs and had been told it would be quicker to go there than the maternity unit.
The kid with the nose was seen pretty fast which was nice to see because it looked really bad - the moral of the story is if you want to be seen fast at A&E, put on a good show. The girl with the swallowed bead - man, she should have been sent home. There were four of them there altogether and what the hell is anybody going to do about that? They were a huge family too (like super f.a.t.) so what's worse? Swallowing a bead or chowing down on a McDonalds? I think I'm allowed to make light of this because she came skipping into the joint. It wasn't like she had it stuck in her throat and couldn't breath or swallow. Maybe I'm being harsh there. I would have given my kids some food to flush it down with and made sure they had a pulse, were still breathing and let nature do the rest. Like you would with a dog.
Shit. Am I bad parent?
The twisted ankle thing? Really? You went to A&E with a twisted ankle? Bunch of pussies. Seriously you are. At least one of you drove yourself there. How bad could it have been? Anyway, some other people seemed to come and go (I switched off after the initial intrigue) but for the three hours or so that we were there, the pregnant woman who fell down the stairs had still not been seen. It's not a very private place so a) this is how me and everybody else knew what was wrong with people when they checked in and b) some people love to tell other people who have been waiting a long time what's wrong with them.
I'm not commenting on the effectiveness of our NHS A&E system here but even at its lowest common denominator, (that would be to stop somebody badmouthing the system to everybody that walked in - everybody can live without that sort of PR), surely they should have got her through the system a bit faster than that - because that's exactly what all of us sitting in there were thinking. That must have been 30 or 40 people within those three hours who all left thinking it was wrong. You couldn't fuck up a business any easier or faster than that if you tried - could you?
I guess people are just doing their jobs and budget cuts simply slide down from top to bottom like they do everywhere. I don't think it's any different in a country where you don't have the NHS. You probably have to wait just as long and then pay. Although it does raise an interesting point over whether 'cut to the head football man' and 'sprained ankle man' would even have been there in the first place. Personally, I would have gone to the supermarket and bought some of that 'spray plaster' and got on with my life. I'm already behind with Luther as it is.
Somewhere in there, is an important dividing line over how to make the system work better but it never will while there are pussies clogging it up.
Most of all though, I was so disappointed that there wasn't a boy waiting to be seen with a saucepan stuck on his head that I had to text at least four people and tell them so.
Footnote: It occurs to me that if you took all the money from the parking fees across an average year and put it back into the system it belongs in (ie the hospital and not the local council), they could probably afford some more Doctors and other assorted staff to make it run a little smoother. There's likely to be a simple equation out there to figure that out isn't there?
Footnote 2: It also occurs to me that if you've spent money on three televisions in the waiting area and have them switched on, you could maybe turn the sound up so people could watch them - then most wouldn't notice how shitty everything has become. Just a thought...