Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Sub-Waiting Room

Yesterday I endured the most dreaded of waiting rooms - the hospital outpatient clinic. This time it is my eyes. As I was just diagnosed diabetic, my diligent doctor has sent me over for some baseline pictures of my eye. I don't know what it is about touching the eye, but I find it more intimate, more terrifying than the dentist's. What comes to mind is a picture of Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four where his eyes are peeled open. He has no way to close them. ~shivers~. But I haven't found the image that haunts me. Anyways, hubby came along as I was not to take myself home after the tests. The drops they would put in my eyes would leave my pupils dilated with very limited vision.

But for all my horrors, the photographs and the exam were fairly painless. The professional staff, also, were pleasant and helpful.

Where I encountered reception hell was in the waiting rooms. There were at least four of them in this eye clinic, a wing in a much larger hospital.
The signage to the first rest stop was fairly straightforward. This first receptionist directed me "to the very end of the hall" and "to the right".
Like all government buildings, the place was forested with signage and instructions. "Put paperwork in this basket", "Emergency Intake". and a hand drawn, "This is not the end of the hall". I got to the end where I faced the mildly terrifying "Emergency Intake" and a darkened room. "To the right" was a small area marked "Sub-Waiting Room", a pleasant elderly lady, and nobody else. To the left was a small receptionist counter with another one of this ubiquitous baskets. Uncertain, I went back to a more substantial waiting room. And stared at the "This is not the end of the hall" sign again. I helpfully called out, "Is this the end of the hall?" And got a helpful reply, "keep going." Back at the empty counter on the left. A woman appears and takes me in hand. I'm on my way.

Nearly as distressing was getting there, as there is construction going on. The entrance was positively hostile to people on foot. The sidewalk I usually take was blocked off. The emergency entrance had a blaring sign, "No access to day clinic". Hubby and I looked at each other for a moment and decided we would have to walk the block away from the hospital to gain access to the main doors.
There's a narrow ramp that takes street traffic to these doors. There is no side walk. As we hesitated at the base of the ramp, allowing several cars to rush past, I looked one more time to see if there might be an easier way to get in. There were several access doors below and to the side, but they had that same forbidding look that the emergency entrance had. I had a gut feeling those doors would not gain me entrance. So up the ramp we went. My memory told me the eye clinic was just to the right of the front entrance, but the large directory overwhelmed. Do I look under Opthamology, Eye Clinic, what? I couldn't see it alphabetically, so I bothered the main receptionist. Thankfully, the clinic had not moved in the six years since I was there last, she pointed me in the direction I thought I must go. And there it was, just past the main directory, a huge sign, "Eye Clinic".
Thinking about all those hallways, signs, doors, and waiting rooms, I wonder if the eye clinic suffers from being cobbled in to a large hospital wing with a minimum of renovation. Not that I'm a huge fan of renovation, considering the trouble we had even getting in there.
What is it with hospital sub-waiting rooms? What spot of efficiency is hoped to be gained? Is it to keep the professional from having to walk a hundred steps a day to locate their patient? The result is that every day newcomers are treading unfamiliar halls and unfamiliar signage. It is unsettling.