The other week I had to go to Ballymena Health Centre for a routine appointment. Along I tootle, heading for the usual place - which like a lot of older hospital buildings used to be the Ballymena Workhouse:
All lovely old stone work, as was the norm back in the day.
I remember my grandfather never wanting to go to hospital, as in Coleraine too it was in the old Workhouse building. Such was the fear that he had for anything to do with the Workhouse. Difficult for me to understand really, being from a different era, but for sure I understood it was not a place you would ever choose to go. Interesting the plaque states that the Workhouse System ended in 1948. I would have thought it ended a long time before that, but there you go.
Anyway, as I entered the building I did think the place was a bit deserted and then I was informed that the department had moved next door, 'to the new building'. No problem, says I, and off I tootle again.
And there we have it. No doubt many a design award has been won. That would be Slemish mountain you might be able to make out there way in the distance, by the way. Not really a mountain, of course...we're not talking K2 or Annapurna or one of them boys here in County Antrim. However, it is the same Slemish on which good old St. Patrick was rumoured to have tended swine when he was a young whipper-snapper - that would be before he saved Ireland from Druidism and brought enlightenment (i.e., Christianity) to the people. Indeed, he got very busy in his old age, did Patrick. Not like me. I've got very un-busy in me old age. Ah well.
So where was I...oh yes, the lovely new health centre in Ballymena. So I rounded the corner and stepped inside - and thought for a minute I was in an airport:
You might spot the front doors there, if your eyesight is good. Cleverly, all the treatment rooms appeared to be on the upper floors. Now there are lifts for the not-so-mobile (like me) but they are, naturally enough, right at the back of the building. It's all lovely and clean and what-have-you, but not only do you have to walk across the full length of the light, airy, polished-to-death atrium (just wait until it's wet outside - won't be long - and see how many people fall over and break a bone on that floor) to get to the lift, but then down seemingly endless long corridors once you actually step out of the lift. Clearly this was not designed for people who might be elderly, infirm, unable to walk very well, or, heaven forbid, ill or anything like that. No, this health centre was obviously built for people who are healthy.
Sometimes I think all I do these days is moan but honestly, it really gets my goat when I see millions of pounds being spent like this, on something which is nice and bright and clean and very suitable for all the staff and people in suits but is clearly not designed for the people that actually matter - the users.
(Of course I realise that is very old-fashioned thinking...the people that matter are the managers and staff. How silly of me.)
And then to cap it all, once my appointment was finished, the very nice lady asked me to take a note to the admissions desk in order to make my next appointment for 6 months time. Excuse me? Now there were 3 people in the room - the health professional person I had come to see, a student nurse and yours truly. One of the three has had 4 hip replacements and has obvious mobility problems. No matter, I'll take another walk down another long corridor followed by a very lengthy and uncomfortable stand in a queue before handing over 'the note' to someone sitting down (in an ergonomically-designed chair, no doubt) behind a very nice-looking desk. It's mad.
It's the same on the rare occasion that I actually see a consultant. He or she usually prescribes some drug or other ('cos that's what they do). Do they give me the drug? No, they write a letter and give the letter to me. I then take said letter to my GP Surgery (car journey #1). Then I wait 24 hours. Then I drive back to the GP Surgery (car journey #2) to pick up another note ('prescription') and then I drive to the Pharmacy (car journey #3) and wait in line, as the Americans say, to get my drug. Or sometimes when it works the prescription gets magically picked up by the Pharmacy and I can just go straight there, after 48 hours. Either way, it's still mad in this age of electronic communication.
But - taking a deep breath - back to things that do work well. All snaps taken on a lovely little German rangefinder with a 35mm lens attached, some type of Ilford film in it and sloshed in ID-11. Magic.
Sorry. I got a bit Mr Angry there. I'm calmer now, had some Green Tea, feeling much better, thanks...