Have you been to the emergency room of a large metro hospital lately? I hope not! Those places are a zoo. I had occasion to visit the walk-in area of one the other day, fortunately not as a patient.
The first thing I noticed was a security guard and metal detector. Were they afraid terrorists would attack the hospital, or what? The detector buzzed as I went through, probably from the cell phone in my purse. The security guard merely yawned. Guess I didn’t fit the profile.
“Where do I go to get someone’s stuff back?” I asked.
“Get in line,” she told me. I figured I’d best not push it or they might decide it was worthwhile to interrogate me after all.
As I said, I was not there on an emergency. My daughter came through the ER as a patient earlier, and they had locked up her wallet. I just wanted to get her stuff back. But there I was in line with all the sick folks who were trying to out complain each other since the most critical patients are seen first.
The stressed out receptionist was talking to the man at the front of the line and filling out forms. He put his head down on the counter and told her he was having chest pain and felt nauseated. I tried to remember how to give CPR and drew a breath of relief when she finally finished his forms.
Before I could open my mouth a little guy with a stocking cap jumped in front of me and said, “I am!”
“What is your problem?” asked the receptionist, with sweat beads popping out on her forehead and a wisp of hair falling over her eye.
“Psychiatric,” said the new customer, “Didn’t my doctor call you?”
Boy, was I ever glad I hadn’t argued about whose turn it was next. Maybe it was my imagination, but he seemed to get processed much faster than the guy with the heart attack had.
Finally, I made it to the front. “Err, I just want my daughter’s stuff that you locked up. See, I have the form that the nurse filled out and my daughter signed it.” I waved it under her nose.
“Lorinda!” Come out here, she yelled toward the back.
Meanwhile an injured delivery man in line behind me was dripping blood on the floor and holding a towel on his hand. “Do you have insurance?” the clerk quizzed, as the poor guy struggled to find his Blue Cross card. Fortunately, it was his left hand that was injured, so he could sign the forms without too much trouble. Forms are very important to an emergency room it seems, almost more important than blood or pain.
Lorinda eventually showed before I fainted and looked at my form. “This stuff has gone to the cashier’s office,” she said, as a wheel chair whizzed by and through the automatically opening blue doors, narrowly missing my toes.
I left with the metal detector still buzzing in my ears, and headed out to search for the cashier’s office. I finally found it only to be told that I had the wrong form. My form was only for the ER. “The patient needs to come in and sign our form,” said the cashier.
“But, she can’t come! She’s critical. That’s why I’m here.” What’s the matter with these people anyhow?
“Bring her on a stretcher to the back hall and I’ll come out there,” the clerical Einstein generously offered. Rules are rules, he insisted, and he could lose his job if he digressed from them, regardless of permissions or conditions.
What a ludicrous policy!
Believe it or not, I finally ended up meeting him out back with a paramedic pushing my daughter on a stretcher. The deal went down okay, and I got her wallet back at last.
I must be dreaming this, I thought. Surely it is an episode of MASH returning to give me nightmares. Afraid not… It is for real … just an ordinary day of business as usual at the hospital.