The first instance is the ambulance collection service that our local hospital operates to take patients between the hospital and their homes. I make it clear that this service is not the same as the ambulances you get when you dial 999. The ambulance collection service uses minibus-type ambulances with ramps for wheelchairs or stretchers and only have about 5 seats maximum. They are used purely to take incapacitated patients home after their hospital stay (hence some are on stretchers) or to appointments if walking is difficult. I encountered this service for the first time when my mother was discharged from hospital after she broke her knee and was barely able to walk. Unable to cope on her own at home, she opted to come and stay with me for what turned out to be six weeks. During that time we had several appointments at the hospital either at the fracture clinic or for heart scans or to see consultants. As her leg had to be kept straight, it was in a foam brace with velcro straps but did the same job as a plaster cast. It therefore required the ambulance service to turn up at my house, carry her down two flights of stairs in a carry-chair, put her in the ambulance with her leg stretched out and drive her to her appointment, then do the whole thing in reverse once the appointment was finished. I was given a phone number and I had to book this service every time, days in advance. Each time I was told we had to be ready for collection 2.5 hours ahead of the appointment. It meant that for an appointment at 2pm, say, we had to be ready and waiting at 11.30am. It could mean having a really early lunch or snacking instead in case there was a sudden ring at the doorbell. There was always a lot of waiting, just in case they were early.
In reality, the ambulance usually turned up about an hour before, so there had been a lot of useless hanging around, but we understood the problems, as we were never the only patients on board and they often had to pick patients up after us before they set off to the hospital. At the end of the appointment, you could wait around in the hospital foyer for anything up to five hours to be taken home again. On average it was two hours, but the five-hour one put us off ever using it again, as we didn't get home until 9pm! Again we were not the only ones going home, so we had to hang around for others to be collected from wards or clinics.
The crews were by and large very lovely people who were caring beyond the call of duty. We saw some of them several times and got to know them very well. On the last occasion, however, the crew that collected us from home had a jobsworth who wouldn't lift my mother down the stairs with her leg outstretched because he might hurt his back and he moaned and groaned more than my mother whose knee he tried to yank into a bent position without any prior warning to make her easier to carry. Once in the ambulance, he lay down on the empty stretcher and closed his eyes for the entire journey, while his colleague drove us to the hospital. If her knee ever heals, it will be no thanks to him.
Still on the hospital theme, my mother was discharged from hospital in early October with two items issued by Occupational Therapy: a zimmer frame and an upright leather armchair at the right height to help her stand up and sit down with a gammy knee. In truth, she did not really like the chair. It was too uncomfortable for her arthritic back, but she put up with it, hoping the hospital knew best. When my mother went back to her flat two weeks ago, there was certainly no room for the chair, so I rang the telephone number on the back of the chair for the equipment agency to collect it. Herein started my nightmare.
Last week, I rang the hospital and spoke to the Occupational Therapist who sounded a bit vague when I explained the problem, but she cheerily told me to leave it with her and try ringing the equipment agency again on Monday, which I did yesterday.We can't collect it as it is not registered to your address.Where is it registered, then?
At the hospital address.
So how do I get rid of it?
You either need to take it back to the hospital or get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you.
But I am telling you now what my address is.
Sorry. You either need to take it back to the hospital or get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you.
We can't collect it as it is not registered to your address.
Well look, this is silly, isnt it? I can't keep ringing you and the hospital and getting nowhere. Why don't you just collect it from me. My addresss is...
Sorry. You either need to take it back to the hospital or get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you. Maybe you could take it to the hospital?
The chair is up two flights of stairs. I am 64 years old and a widow. Even if I could single-handedly carry a huge leather armchair down to the ground floor, how am I going to get it in my car?
Well, in that case, get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you.
Look, I am sick of being piggy in the middle. I'm telling you now, if you do not collect the chair by the end of the week, it will end up on the tip.
It would break my heart to see it on the tip so I rang the Occuptional Therapist again yesterday .......12 times. Each time I was told she was at a meeting/on a ward round/at lunch/assessing a patient/not there/in Timbuktu/ gone home. Each time I left a message for her to ring me to see how the chair could be re-registered under my address. I finally got hold of her this morning! She's promised to get back to me. Hmm. Watch this space. I'm not over-confident.
Meanwhile I was due to have a new radiator put in my bedroom last Thursday. The two men who turned up told me they had only been allocated two hours for a five-hour job, so it was rearranged for today. I got a call this morning from the gas company to say, one of them is off sick, so the job has been rescheduled for next week. Hopefully, third time lucky.
Yep, I'm not dreaming. It's not the first day of April either. Life can be a bitch.