*And by parking I mean ‘not parking’.
It has been a while since I last had an emergency admission into hospital and because it has been a while I completely forgot that such an activity requires intense logistical planning, moral / ethical mazes, financial forecasting and nerves of steel.
1. REAL Emergency flashing blue lights and screeching brakes admissions, accident and emergency for the conscious and walking / wheeling wounded admissions and ‘Shropdoc’ walk in demountable clinic for those who don’t know if they are ill enough to merit access to a bricks and mortar building are all located within 30 metres of each other.
2. There is NO parking in the vicinity – except bizarrely for a staff car park on what looked like it used to be a grass verge, and an overfilled ‘drop-off’ car park for a clinic. So staff get priority for parking over people who may have suffered an accident?
3. So nerves of steel required to pull into a heavily guarded and marked ambulance bay to dash into minor emergencies reception to pick up a wheelchair to bring out to put my daughter in. She can’t walk you see. It is at this point that I realise that my attempt at being an adult has failed completely and I should have phoned my mum and dad and asked one of them to take us to hospital. Oh and before you mention buses or public transport, this is Shropshire, there are no straightforward public transport options from where I am to the hospital. Oh and my daughter can’t walk any way.
4. NO DROPPED KERBS!!!!
5. Logistics 1 Daughter ensconced in reception. Um. Now what. I am amazing in so many ways but actually being in two places at once is still a skill I need to master. Moral maze: I have to stay with my injured, vulnerable 9-year-old daughter, and yet I have to move my car, because I am parked in an ambulance bay that is guarded by all-seeing beings who will swoop in any minute to clamp me and fine me. I ask reception where the best place is for me to park.
“Parking is nothing to do with us”
“You see, My 9-year-old is in reception, which is out of your sight (It is completely out of sight of the desk, bizarrely), and my car is sitting in an ambulance bay. I know I need to move my car but I don’t particularly want to leave my daughter on her own”.
“Well the parking is nothing to do with us. The attendants check all the time though and there is nothing we can do to help you if you get a ticket”.
So, here is the thing.
a. This is your hospital, parking is a service you provide to your patients. It is inextricably linked with what you do because this is how your customers arrive at your premises. You may have sub-contracted management of the parking, but you are the client and you call the shots.
b. I’m actually more concerned about first, my daughter and second, being in the way of the ambulance.
4. So I dash off and park in the general parking which involves driving around and around until a space becomes available. Then working the parking machine. I don’t have cash but there is a sign saying ‘You can pay by phone, look out for the signs near by’. WHY don’t you just put the phone number on the sign??? ‘You can pay by phone, Call 01743……….’ The sign is actually on the side of the machine. Not the most obvious ‘near by’ sign when you are in an ethically challenged panic state.
5. Fortunately payment is through a company I have an account with, but inexplicably it asks me how many hours I want to pay for, when the machines are a flat fee for 24 hours regardless of how long you stay. So that confuses me and means I have to wing it by asking for 4 hours. Who actually knows how long I will be at the hospital for.
6. I get back to comforting extremely brave and well behaved daughter. and I wonder why a car park company is getting all the money for the car park rather than it being reinvested directly in the hospital.
7. Logistics 2 Did I mention the wheel chair? You know those trolleys in DIY shops which only go backwards? They now make wheel chairs like that too. Have you ever tried to manoeuvre a backwards only wheelchair over a pot-holed hard standing with no dropped kerbs? Whilst a bunch of squaddies and paramedics look on (audience always adds pressure, let alone an audience of people who can probably excel at this challenge in their sleep). Not my finest moment. And that was with it empty. It was worse with my poor, pained daughter in it. She got out at the kerb. WHY not have level access??????? WHY not have simple easy to use wheelchairs like supermarkets do????? Needless to say there are a few more dents in the walls of minor emergencies courtesy of me.
8. Ambulances wait outside the entrance to A and E which is well within the hospital grounds WHY? Why are they not on their starters blocks right next to the main road? Why do they have to traverse a twisting pedestrian and patient littered road before launching into their sprint to a patient? I can understand them being there dropping people off, but just hanging about waiting? In fact why isn’t the whole major emergencies department right next to the main road? That would probably shave a crucial 90 seconds off travel times.
9. Hungry and thirsty now, after triage assessment (Triage Sister was wonderful, exactly the right balance of compassion, competence and common sense that you want in a minor emergency) we decide on getting a diet coke from the vending machine. I have just the right money. It eats the money and does not give me a drink or give me my money back.
“Excuse me, the vending machine has just taken my money, it won’t let me cancel to have my money back and it won’t let me have a drink either”
“Vending machines are nothing to do with us”
“Would you be able to change this money so I can add an extra 10p to try to get a different drink?”.
“No, if we did that, we would be bankrupt. That machine has been broken for ages”.
WHY not put a sign on the machine saying it is broken then????????
Subsequently, exactly the same thing happened to another patient in a different part of the hospital with exactly the same response.
Customer service was not the strong point of this day.
P.S. Daughter may have cracked a little tiny bone in her foot, plus lots of soft tissue damage. Nothing major, but she will need to wear a special shoe to support her foot for a few weeks whilst it heals.