The emergency room


We were at Rhode Island Hospital not long ago. One of the orderlies told us that the previous night had been terrible: gunshot victims, stabbings, all kinds of mayhem.  As it was, the emergency room was still crowded at 11:00 am on Saturday morning.  You can pretty much tell what’s wrong with people in an emergency room without asking: the woman in a wheelchair who’s coughing up a lung, the guy lying motionless on two chairs and wheezing from time to time, the stocky guy clutching his back and moaning from time to time. 



The triage system seemed inefficient: they take your photo ID and hold it – I suppose to keep people from walking out – and do a quick once-over, blood pressure and temperature, and ask a few questions.  Then they give back your ID card, and you sit and wait. 



It’s kind of like the DMV: if you’re looking for a method to isolate the best whiners in a group, this is it.  You can always hear people loudly complaining about how long they’ve waited, other people being taken first, etc.  (To be fair, they’re presumably trying to take the serious cases first, so the lady with foot pain probably isn’t going to get priority over the lady in the wheelchair who can’t breathe.) 



We quietly relocated ourselves from the coughing lady, who was spraying her contagion all over the southeast corner of the room, and waited.



The wait really wasn’t that long.  They called us, and we sat in the inner area (which means you’re in!), and we were put into a little examining room.  A tall shaven-headed nurse attended to us, as did a short bearded nurse wearing a polka-dotted smock.  Then the ER doctor – short, cute, funny, very buff, very bouncy and energetic – came in, did his thing, asked a few questions, and sent us off to the X-ray room.  After the X-rays, we waited for only a bit longer before Doctor Cutiepie came back– twice! – with prescriptions and advice, and sent us home.



Please note: every single person who dealt with us was cheerful and professional.  This was in a large hospital serving the run-down heart of a run-down East Coast city. 



And we came home feeling much better, and feeling that we’d received pretty good care.



It is amazing.



It is partly, of course, because Brown University and its medical school are right next door; there’s a steady stream of interns, residents, etc. 



But still!



I am deeply grateful that I live in a place where high-level care is easily obtained, and affordable.



Is there any reason that good health care like this shouldn’t be available to everyone?



(Ahem.  Political, political, political.  You get my message?)



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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