Take a Seat
A new reality at Plas Meddyg
ensures our safety and that of
staff, reports a RADCA member
It’s a very different world. A rather
scary world, actually. You enter as
if on to an unfamiliar stage,
perhaps the set of a sci-fi drama,
where the usual reference points
are all distorted.
Let me explain. There I was, and I
need to speak to a GP. First,
there’s the telephone call. Later
and I am engaged in a 17-minute telephone consultation with a doctor. But I need to be examined.
This involves a visit. Doctor determines I am not likely to be covid-19 positive. Doctor reassures that
it’s safe to enter the surgery—in spite of my obvious anxiety at doing so.
The queue outside is prudently keeping apart much more than the prescribed 6′ 6″, as if the mere
fact of being there adds to the possibility of disease and pestilence. For all I know, patients have
nothing more than smouldering dyspepsia or a crusty case of athlete’s foot but the distance seems
to be in proportion to the uncertainty we feel. There’s an outside table at the entrance upon which a
masked and aproned assistant places medicines. They’re packed in their usual crisp paper bags of
newly washed & ironed whites.
Seeing the doctor means by-passing the queue but, entering, it is impossible to maintain 6′ 6″.
Inside, reception is ringed with chairs forming a
makeshift barrier, as if the staff behind are rock stars at
a concert. Facing the counter, the seats seem to pay
homage to the NHS. It’s impossible to get close. You
bellow across the void. No secrets here, no discretion.
Not that it matters. There’s only one other patient
within, nervously standing as far back as possible. It’s
unusually and unnervingly quiet, like pub closing time
on a wintry Tuesday evening or December 27th in town.
There are screens installed on the reception counter.
No sign of any public hand sanitiser anywhere, though.
That, no doubt, is reserved for doctors.
“Please take a seat”. Although the chairs are now well
spaced, sitting means you relinquish control over your
personal space, especially as staff have to move
around. I elect to stand.
A doors opens. Out comes a patient from a consultation and involuntarily I withdraw, willing the wall
to absorb me, as if recoiling as from a great aunt’s carbolic-scented air kiss. The patient wears a full
hard plastic face mask. Darth Vader and I lock eyes. I am tempted to ask him how goes the Empire
but the frivolity doesn’t match the sober atmosphere. His concealed face adds to the apprehension. I
chastise myself as I ask why I haven’t been prudent enough to acquire a mask.
The buzzer goes and I walk to the doctor’s door. I try to figure out whether it’s safe to use the door
handle when the masked doctor opens it for me with a hand of blue latex. No biological hazmat suit,
which is a relief. No need to distance within the consultation room, either, for the doctor needs to
Departure time and there are a total of two patients waiting. They look relaxed and chat comfortably
at a distance. The staff also seem at ease, as if there’s really not quite enough work in the new
reality where patients have forsaken them to suffer alone at home in their own quiet discomfort.
Again, I wonder at how incomprehensible it is that there should be so few patients within.
Plas Meddyg made its changes early on in the virus’ first wave and as such was an exemplar. I am
grateful. But probably not as appreciative as the doctors, nurses and staff more at risk than me.
Meanwhile, the construction work to increase the consultation space, which started in early February
and was due to finish mid-March is now inevitably postponed.