07 December 20
Posted at 5:41
Lister Hospital Stevenage
It’s the 7th December 2020, tomorrow the first vaccinations against Covid-19 will be administered to health workers and the over 80 year olds in or visiting some designated hospitals. The first day of what will be months of vaccinations in order to cover the whole population, well those who wish to be vaccinated.
Today I had to visit the hospital for some, hopefully routine, blood tests. I’ve visited the Lister Hospital for blood tests a number of times over the years. Thankfully none have shown up anything serious but for instance I insist on a PSA test for prostrate cancer every year having a close friend with the condition, thankfully caught early enough for treatment, and a number of other friends and acquaintances who have either died from or are suffering with the condition.
I’ve always found attending the hospital for a blood test an unpleasant experience. It is always so busy! So busy in fact people who I assume are regulars get there up to an hour before the pathology unit opens at 8 o clock. They are issued a number and at eight o clock they can sign in by numerical order to sit in the waiting room. This practice means that anyone arriving at 8 o clock or just after joins a crowded waiting room with a hour or two wait for the thirty second job of having blood samples taken. The waiting room queue is therefore very long all day. The first time I went there I arrived around 8 am and joined the crowded waiting room not then being aware of the early morning number allocation system. The second time I went I actually arrived about 0730 and still found myself being allocated number 31 which I could use half an hour later to join others in the waiting room.
Remember these experiences were ages ago and pre pandemic. Never the less I found them stressful. First of all many of those in the crowded room looked visibly ill, not a surprise I guess but off putting when bundled together like sardines. Of course nobody wore face coverings so there was coughing and spluttering, groans and moans and often some frayed tempers. The phlebotomists would enter the waiting room from the cubicles, pick up the next patients papers and call out their name. Due to the crowded nature of the room, shuffling, stirring and muttering often the name was unclear, tow or three people might get up and move forwards, others would tut and mutter as it was not their name. The name would now be called again for clarification but as the noise level in the room had now increased the cycle was repeated. This served to increase the frustration and aggressive body language and expression of those present.
Based on my previous experiences I was not looking forward to going there today. Add to that concern the fact that I read just this morning the virus is caught in hospital more than any other location and you can imagine I was not keen to go at all. This wasn’t just a precautionary visit so I knew I had to attend. I could not be bothered to get there at the crack of dawn so I went at a reasonable hour, about ten o clock, armed with a good book plenty of hand sanitiser and of course a mask, prepared for a very long wait. Waiting and queuing has become acceptable during this pandemic.
On arrival the hospital appeared to be quite quiet, maybe because visiting is prohibited during the pandemic. I made my way to the pathology area, it used to be called phlebotomy I wonder why it changed. A nurse type person was stood at the door with a clip board, I enquired whether pathology is where I get a blood test. She said yes and asked me to join a queue, which was just three people, in the corridor. I say queue, it was just three people at that point, each with a seat at least three metres apart. The nurse took my paper work and checked my details. I glanced through the door to the waiting room where there were no more than ten people, spaced out in the room that usually held upwards of sixty. More people joined the queue and the nurse ran a one out one in system to the waiting room. Within minutes I was ushered in and allocated a seat. The room was peaceful, everyone masked but even with masks their eye expressions and body language was calm and happy. When names were called out they were loud and clear, partly due to the quiet room and partly because the caller was masked up so have to raise their voice. I commenced reading, the latest Wilbur Smith, and was somewhat disappointed to have my name called within fifteen minutes, just as Mungo St John was about to murder his grandfather. The phlebotomist was very pleasant, appeared happy and calm in her work. I shared with her my trepidation about coming there and what a pleasant surprise the whole experience had been and how impressed I was with the process. She was pleased with the feedback. On leaving I wondered if the Covid safe system only worked because far less people are presenting for blood checks and what the consequences and causes of that might be.