Sunday, April 29, 2007

It's 1991. No doubt about it.

Mrs W has just spent a couple of nights in hospital with a mystery virus. I'm grateful to the NHS folk for looking after her - particularly our GP who knew something was wrong and got the Mrs admitted in an ambulance. If that hadn't happened, I don't think we'd ever have made it beyond triage. Or we'd still be sitting in the reception of A&E.

Anyway, although it's been a worrying time, you do have to laugh. As Mrs W became more human again, she began to earwig some of the conversations in neighbouring beds. The doctors had a set of questions to measure exactly how many sandwiches short the patients were. One of the things they ask (and you should take notes here, just in case you find yourself being asked in the future) is what the year is. One bloke was absolutely adamant it was 1991 and couldn't be shaken in his conviction. I think his name must have been Sam Tyler. The doctors weren't sure whether he was mad, in a coma or just travelling in time.

Another patient - a lady on this occasion - was asked her name. I won't reveal it for reasons of confidentiality, but let's just say it had a strong Teutonic flavour. The next question was whether she could name the dates of the Second World War. You really couldn't make this stuff up. Basil Fawlty is alive and well and striding the corridors of our local infirmary with a white coat and a stethoscope. (Incidentally, the gentleman who thought it was 1991 was also asked about World War II. He suggested 1914-1918 and was politely corrected. Perhaps he was getting his wars confused?)

I have never, in all my born days, heard such a quintessentially British load of old cobblers. If these questions were asked of teenagers in the local comprehensive, I expect half of them would be diagnosed with dementia.

And anyone would be demented if they stopped to think about the logic of the hospital's hygiene regime. There are posters everywhere warning about MRSA and C Difficile etc and telling you to wash your hands with Spirigel®, winner - according to the manufacturer's website - of The National Alcohol Hand Rub Contract. Now, I'm as big a hypochondriac as you're likely to find, but even I realise there's no point in washing your hands when you're about to enter a ward that has blood and old towels on the floor. Or about to leave the ward and press the button on a dilapidated elevator. I saw one doctor scrubbing his hands with gel while holding his car keys between his teeth. He then put the car keys down on a counter. No doubt they'd be back in his mouth when he left the premises and needed to scrub his hands again.

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