Great New Zealand Locales: A & E

Like Valentines, Takapuna Beach, and State Highway 1 on a long weekend there is one other place you are likely to end up when you least expect it, and that’s the A & E Clinic.

Doesn’t matter that it’s a White Cross. Don’t get fooled by the idea that you’re engaging with Private Healthcare. You still get to wait for four hours, you still won’t be able to find a toilet and you’ll still have to ask permission to have a cup of water like a six year old.

On arrival in your wheelchair, pushed by your mother in law (or worse—your employer), the wide self-opening doors splay to make way for your ACC dollar spend. Which way will we go? To the security guards at reception? Or over there, to the darkened corridor of sickness and injury?

The darkened corridor it is! As you wheel down, broken bodies and office workers holding sick bags take up the 30 or so seats allocated.

As it’s only Tuesday morning, you wonder how people could have become so utterly injured—it’s like a suburb has been carpet-bombed and then in the aftermath, botulism served to the wounded by mistake.

Accident. There is nothing harder than filling out a two-page form with a fence stake through your neck, or a suspected cracked spine.

And the story you write on that form will follow you round for years to come so make sure you’ve got it right, because your first stop is in the assessment room with The Nurse. I mean there you are, not even dressed properly yet, because you had to leave the house in a hurry. Perhaps some undergarments are missing, even, and it doesn’t matter you tell yourself, until the horror news arrives that you’re about to have an x-ray and will need to to change into the supplied gown to be x-rayed, underpantless and shamed.

But before that can happen, you’ll need to be wheeled into the special triage area with the drapes, and pass the time for another hour or so with your pain level now at 9/10.

A cursory scan of the room reveals a wall of typed statements. You feel overwhelmed by the instructional tone:

Do not film the staff. If you are found to be filming the staff you will be thrown out of the facility like in the movies

Duly, you slide your device into your back pocket and continue with the Woman’s Day crossword, half-finished.

5. Popular New Zealand broadcaster Mike _ _ _ _ _ _ _

With that over with, the wizened locum arrives, a bit windswept from all the casualties. He finally gives you the two tablets you crave and you almost choke to death trying to get them down with the complimentary three drops of water.

It’s nearly over. Your support person has endured this with you and they are still actually talking to you, and there’s been some bonding, some tears and some hilarity, with the added bonus of Emmerdale on the flat screen in the waiting room, and the sight of a near-immobile school-age child hobbling to get at the books while her mum sits, arms folded, fiercely clutching her wallet as if the whole thing is a major inconvenience.

And in a way she’s right. The suburban A&E is no hospital. It’s a boutique disaster area, and you still emerge poorer and in more despair than when you started.

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