It’s been a couple of years since I last visited our family doctor’s surgery. At first glance nothing much had changed. The crucified Jesus still hung above the reception desk, right over your head as you wait to be seen.
I swear the discreet Christian music emanating from speakers in the waiting room ceiling, like old Roman Catholic censers perpetually releasing incense haze above a High Altar, was the exact same I was forced to endure two years ago.
After exchanging the usual formalities with a prissy young receptionist – not a blond hair out of place, nails as immaculate as the conception that eventually gave birth to the guy hanging above me – I was given a clipboard and told to ‘fill it in’.
At first, I assumed it was the inevitable, ‘spell out what’s wrong with you, list all your symptoms, previous diseases (including STDs), and don’t kid us you’ve never used illegal drugs’ type of form, so it was with some surprise (and not a little cynicism) that I discovered my doctor had been taken over.
The practice, so the blurb informed me, is now in the hands of a Catholic marketing company known as HSHS Medical Group. Basically, I was being told that HSHS would accept no liability if their medical staff killed, maimed, or mentally deranged me. I could sue the doctor, but not them. They just handled the financial matters and would certainly sue me if I didn’t pay them in good order any outstanding monies they deemed I might owe them. The form ended with the usual crap, that “the Mission of HSHS is dedicated to compassionate, holistic health care that treats the whole person, in the spirit and tradition of our founding Hospital Sisters of St. Francis.”
By this time it had become obvious to me that, HSHS, stood for “Holy Shit, Holy Shit, Medical Group”.
Previous experience of this surgery kept me from seeking any suitably perusable magazine among the pile of Christian monthlies on the waiting room table, all neatly stacked next to an impressively large copy of the Holy Bible -which had always been there – and a large, white, square, book that hadn’t. It might have passed for a photograph album if the words, “Focus On The Family”, had not been highlighted in gilt across the cover.
I wondered if James Dobson had nipped in to have his hemorrhoids snipped, and inadvertently left it behind?
I was still debating the origin of the tome, and whether I’d be struck down by a thunderbolt if I dared pick it up and open it, when a rather sloppy lady in jeans and slippers called my name.
I glanced at my watch. Only twenty minutes late; not too bad.
I was ushered into a room about ten feet square, with the usual trappings of a doctor’s surgery: washbasin, various perspex containers of cotton wool balls, those things for looking in your ears and up your nose, etc, etc…..and the inevitable paper-covered, plastic-leathered, couch that was obviously a fortune-maker for its inventor, as there’s one in every doctor’s consulting room the length and breadth of America.
Here I perched while it was ascertained that I was still alive, by taking blood pressure, pulse, and temperature, after which my companion swept out of the room leaving an echo of, “Doctor won’t be too long…..” lingering in the air.
“Too long….” turned out to be twenty-five minutes. After ten, I vacated the backless couch for the doctor’s chair. Well, I was there with neck pain, after all. A pin board on the wall contained sheets of information no doubt considered ideal consumption for bored patients waiting to be healed. There was another letter from the ‘Holy Shit’ corporation welcoming me to their surgery; a couple of painting efforts obviously the work of three year olds, and the usual, “If You Ain’t Got Insurance Don’t Come Here” type of notice, only couched in more flowery, condescending, language.
Over the washbasin was a wall cupboard. On one door was stuck a small pink card with a border of printed flowers. Text in the middle said, “The things you do, make you a wonderful person.”
It was while I was looking for somewhere to be sick that I spotted Jesus again. This time he was sporting a yellow halo and had his arm around a little Arab girl, with the usual background of gamboling lambs. The text said simply: “Suffer little children….”
As I’d just dropped off fifty-one of the shrieking, smelly, varmints at their school, I was in no mood for ‘little children’ platitudes: “You can have ’em, mate,” I shouted silently, You can bloody have ’em all.”
It was about then that the doctor finally put in an appearance.
Escape from this Christian enclave was achieved after a total of one hour and five minutes, of which barely fifteen were spent in actual consultation. I jumped in my car and sped away as though a whole bevy of crucified Jesuses were chasing me.
The local town hospital is a much more efficiently run establishment. I needed to have an X-ray, but from past experience was confident it wouldn’t take long. Sure enough, after two minutes filling in a form, I was handed one of those plastic gadgets that suddenly buzz and light up, and told to take a seat.
Fifteen minutes later I walking back to my car.
I’ve always had great service at the local hospital. The staff are genuinely polite, unlike the sanctimonious piety encountered in the doctor’s office.
And, best of all, there’s not one bloody crucifix in sight.
Filed under: Pills and prayers