No one here is feeling well

Istinomer journalist has spent the last Friday inside (and predominately) in front of the Covid clinic. Luckily, she is negative, but even the good test result is not able to cast any positive light on the experience from the first battle lines of our health care system in the fight against the nasty virus.

“Patients, please, do not enter the waiting room, but wait for the nurse, who will get out to take the cards”, is a notice written on the door of the Covid clinic, in front of which almost 40ish people gathered even before the working hours. Those better informed would take the positions around 6 and 7 a.m., while the most optimistic ones started arriving for their first check-up at the start of the working hours. The nurse opens the door, collects the healthcare card and vanishes. Several minutes later, she would reappear with two cards in her hand, read the names and surnames from the healthcare card, and patients invited would enter after her, and the door would close again.

While waiting for the nurse to come out again, probably in the hope that she will read their name for sure, the patients are mostly quiet, and the silence is disturbed only by frequent bouts of cough. Everyone wears masks and keeps distance, at least until the moment when the doorknob moves, and then again the semicircle creates in front of the door. The nurse in full protective equipment gets out again, takes the cards from those who have arrived in the meantime and reveals to the group who is the “lucky winner” going to the next level.

An older married couple is trying to understand the system of summoning the patients, but since there is no system, people distributed as if on the chessboard do not give them sufficient information. They decide to wait for the nurse next appearance to ask her to allow “the granny on the crutches to get in” since she has a fever and she cannot stand on her feet.

“She can wait in the car then”, responds the nurse taking the piece of plastic made by National Health Insurance Fund. “We do not own the car, our neighbour drove us”, the grandpa explains the situation. In the next run, they are the lucky winners, so one
elderly man with a hat tries the same tactic: “Can you accept me? I am not feeling well.” Before the door closed, one could only hear: “No one here is feeling well”.

More and more people are coming, and those standing for hours now start rubbing their hands and stamping their feet. Many have long ago given up on the fight against foggy glasses. “Please help me get to the car, I am going to faint”, one lady is yelling leaning suddenly against the wall. The infected and potentially infected patients stare for long enough so that in addition to cold, the air is infused by the lack of empathy. Nevertheless, before the woman has collapsed to the ground, some people ran to help. Holding her, they lead her to the car. “I really had a blackout”, said the lady, grateful to those who out of sympathy broke the rule of physical distancing.

The Covid clinic is between the city park and kindergarten. Hence, parents walk through with the kids making greater semicircle, avoiding closer contact with the group of people who are threatening with Corona. At the plateau in front of the hopeful doors, there is a tent, but it is not warmer there. Those gathered under the masks start recognizing each other and start the usual conversation – instead of talking about who got married and found a new job they talk about who was positive, who was on the ventilator.

The nurse invited two more people, and gentleman with a hat asked: “And Bozidar P…? I cannot stand on my feet anymore.” The logical answer followed: “When it is your turn”. The comment from the group follows the closing of the door: “As if she is working in a casino, and she spins to roulette to pick the cards”.

After several hours of waiting, you no longer have the fever, you do not feel your hands and feet, but the reality slaps you when you hear the confession: “I waited from half-past six a.m. until one p.m. yesterday, and I did not make it”. This poor guy who was not “lucky enough” yesterday, the woman in front of him explained him the procedure: long hours of waiting to get inside the clinic are just the first step – it is followed by doctor’s examination, receiving therapy and getting tested.

The testing follows, but it is done from 7 to 10, so you have to come again on the next day, to get tested, and wait for the results. If you have tested positive, you have to go to the same clinic again so you would get recorded in the statistics, and five days after you have to take the control examination – in the same facility and under the same procedure which involves hours and hours of waiting.

Sometime around noon, while the people in the car are taking their regular meds, trying to get warm or eat, the people gathered around are comparing the symptoms and planning their time for the isolation period, one teenager draws his mum attention that they have been waiting for five hours exactly: “If I do not have Corona, I will definitely develop pneumonia”.

When you finally get to the other side of the door, they check your temperature on the hallway and disinfect you. In the next hallway, you see the queue of positive ones who are waiting for a lungs scan. The doctor complains to the nurses that her shift will be over in half an hour, but that she still has another 20ish patient.

I only hope I will last until tomorrow. I haven’t changed my posture the entire day, I am losing my focus, and numbers of patients are growing every day”, the doctor is saying in confidence to her colleague who came to the widow to congratulate her on her last day in the “Covid”.

The testing queue is now moving much faster, swabbing and blood sampling only lasts for a few minutes, and the results are ready in one hour. When you close the magical door behind you, you see the new queue and the people remind you of those in front of Zara stores, but with one difference, because in Covid clinics each day is the Black Friday.