June 2020

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 examine me. 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.
Archive from 2013 Historic Interest