Ancient and modern
I cannot say I look forward to this experience as I did when I lived in the Netherlands. Things are so different around here and it does leave a kind of psychologically negative effect on the mind.
Walk into any of the hospitals in the Netherlands and it is somewhat welcoming rather than foreboding; well-light, the open expanse of atriums, nature giving life to places where people visit to find cure or respite for their ills and sicknesses.
With note and with thanks
Our much vaunted NHS, the National Health Service, one of the largest employers in the world, probably in the top five and things are not just different, but quite noticeably different.
Now, for my expensive drugs that are covered by NHS system, I am more than grateful, I probably will not see another 3 months if I did not daily dose myself with these therapeutic and prophylactic formulations, that must be said.
However, at the point where you walk into the hospital as I did a few days ago, things are just not as they probably should seem. Asking for directions at the main reception, I could not help but notice that it was staffed by volunteers. Bless their hearts, there have been cuts everywhere that we have to depend on volunteers and charity to get around the hospital.
The charity that helps
In fact, there are many areas where charity and selfless service has been exploited at the expense of getting professionals to do the job. Yet, volunteerism allows for people to feel useful and relevant to their communities. Even the main shop serving tea and coffee with snacks was manned by volunteer pensioners too and in a way the profits from that shop might be ploughed back into helping the hospital in some little way, it is help all the same.
The directions to the phlebotomy waiting room were clear enough and I got there, Blood Room, it is called to find probably 20 people ahead of me, prey for the vampires we were, every kind of person was there from those you could look at with concern to those you caught a glimpse of and yet were afraid to take a second look and we were all there for the same thing, to get blood drawn.
Forget the comparison
The Dutch have a rather slick operation for phlebotomies, you present your form which lists the blood tests to be conducted and hence the number of vials of blood to be drawn. The nurse keys in the tests and a list of labels are spewed out of the printer with the date of birth, the number of vials, the colour coding of vials and a queuing ticket.
Within 10 minutes, you are called into a cubicle, private with the curtain screen drawn, a greeting, a verification of date of birth, maybe a conversation and then the phlebotomy.
In the UK, Florence Nightingale will not look out of place. For the billions spent on computer systems, it has not caught up with this section of the hospital establishment anywhere I have been. Things are as manual as they come and forget the privacy, we all go into an open plan room where we are just as exposed for the same thing.
After the confirmation of name and date of birth, the tourniquet is applied to the upper arm to help bulge up a vein on lower arm and the needle, the needle, steely and vicious, attached to a syringe-like plunger is inserted into the temple of body to draw life.
This needle is usually attached to a flexible tube in the Netherlands ensuring there is no discomfort with any movement especially when changing the vials. You can read from that, that it is different in the UK, our experience here is almost as Victorian as the old buildings that host these ‘modern’ hospitals.
This time, I even looked as the needle went in and did not flinch a bit as 6 vials of blood were drawn, the needle taken out and a bulb of cotton wool applied to the puncture wound which was held in place with plain masking tape. The sort that grabs your hairs in a painful waxing feeling when you are ready to take it off.
I cannot say where the vials went after that, but I can only hope that when the results are shared in a few weeks’ time, they will be from me. It goes without saying that I miss the sense of organisation and professionalism that I found in Dutch hospitals. Yet, when in the UK, we just have to make do with what we have got in the UK. C’est la vie.