Accident & Existentialism – A&E
Ruralshire General Hospital A&E looks like one of those US Federal prisons we should (but don’t) have in England. More money has been spent on huge secure electronic doors to the treatment areas, swipe card access control systems and high-resolution CCTV than on medical equipment.
Three of us stand in front of 3 inches of armoured glass at A&E in all our gear, radios blasting, while dozens of tired sad-looking prospective patients look on. A bored gum-chewing receptionist is having a protracted telephone conversation. We have to wait for at least four minutes until she exhausts the phone conversation and will deign to look up and meet my gaze.
“The personal attack alarm from inside the department has been pressed” I tell her.
She says that she can’t let us in as it’s against ‘the contract’ to let anyone in without a security guard present. The security guard isn’t present, he’s behind the sound proof doors with a maniac, hence the panic alarm.
Once I would have argued about this obvious masterpiece of jobsworthness and have become agitated at the thought of a person having the life crushed out of them a few feet away, while we were being kept out for no reason at all. That was before before every member of staff became an agency worker with no ability to make any decision, terrified of losing one of the only jobs left in the town, burdened by rules and deserted by management at the slightest whiff of any incident which might jeopardise ‘the contract’.
I sigh. “OK. Can I just have your name so we can record who it was that refused entry to the police when the panic alarm had been activated”? She declines to give out her name as I am not a patient. It’s in the contract.
“But I need to know who you are for when the security guy is seriously injured”, I say. She won’t tell me, so I whip out my cell phone and take her photo. “Now I have your picture, I don’t need your name any more”. She says that I am not allowed to take her photo on hospital property, it’s against the contract.
“Open the doors immediately or we will get a specialist team down here and break them down” I say. “After we have broken the doors down, if any of the staff inside are dead or seriously injured, you will be held to account and probably arrested, depending upon the circumstances”. I am exaggerating of course. We have no specialist team at this time of the night in Ruralshire any more. At this point, one of the paramedics comes running down the corridor inside and lets us in.
“Where the hell have you been”? she asks, it’s murder in there!
We rush towards the screaming alarm where an 18 stone maniac is attacking one of one of the doctors, three of are needed to pull him off while the security guard looks on. He won’t intervene because it’s not in the contract. If there is any violence, he has been told that he must call the police. On no account must he get involved, it is not in the contract.If anyone is injured by him, he will lose his job and the firm will lose the contract.
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