The letter request:
I had a perplexing visit to an emergency department that was clearly ill equipped to deal with anything slightly resembling an emergency.
Dear Department of Health,
When I was growing up, our family GP wore brown slacks and a buttoned-up checkered shirt. My current GP favours lady slacks and pastel jumpers with floral embroidery. When I recently told a friend that my doctor was in her 70s, my boyfriend interrupted to say that she was actually around 50. Imagine that! Her clothes are so serious that I misjudged her age by two decades. Whether consciously or not, these professionals are projecting to the world: ‘I’m WAY TOO BUSY reading medical journals and boning up on rare conditions to care about fashion.’ As a result, I feel safe in their care.
I recently presented at the closest emergency department to my regional home with severe hemorrhaging and was met by the registrar who introduced himself as Jonno. Now I’m not certain that there’s a correlation between a serious, earnest name and medical expertise, but I’d like to propose this as a research topic for some intrepid PhD candidate. Jonno was young and attractive and wearing scrubs and scruffy Vans. He had a sidekick, Tim, an equally young and attractive doctor. Jonno took one of my arms and Tim took the other – they each jabbed a vein for an intravenous drip.
Believe me, I was cheering for them to be highly skilled. I love it when people eschew stereotypes – I’ve watched the odd episode of Grey’s Anatomy so I’m well aware that people can be hot and fashionable and at the top of their field in medicine.
But, no. Jonno lingered at my bedside and took a call from a mate. He called him ‘Duuuudddddde.’ Plans were made and they involved pizza. He then used his phone to call a larger hospital. He explained the situation, explained what he and Hot Tim had done so far (antibiotics and fluids) and then announced loudly to the doctor on the other end of the line: ‘So…ahhh…I’m at the end of my knowledge.’
It’s great when someone can admit to ignorance. Less great when that person is the most experienced medical professional within a 50km radius and you are bleeding like a special guest star on an episode of Dexter.
Once off the phone, Jonno gave me the following information: ‘You need to be admitted to hospital. You have three options. Hospital A which is an hour away, Hospital B which is 45 minutes away or you could be admitted here. My only recommendation is that you don’t be admitted here.’ Ignorance PLUS honesty PLUS complete lack of confidence in one’s own abilities: Jonno was a triple threat.
I’ve since heard that this is a common thing to be told at this particular hospital. Some people I’ve spoken to have had it whispered to them by a nurse. Others, like me, have had it stated boldly by the doctor-in-charge. I understand that this is a small hospital with limited resources but my question is this: why is the signage out the front so misleading?
My suggestion is that you replace the luminous, red-on-white EMERGENCY with: HOT YOUNG DOCTORS WITH NOT MUCH EXPERIENCE WHO MOST LIKELY WON’T SAVE YOUR LIFE.
Another option might be THE SET OF GREY’S ANATOMY.