Insights (Essays)

Insights (Essays) July 2009

Unintentional Observations about Poker and Pandemic Planning

Anton Hart

Two weeks ago. Visit my own clinic and am stopped at the front door, separated from staff by a two metre glass wall. Questions. "Do I have a fever, cough or sore throat?" Signage reinforces the interrogator. "No". A sanitizer dispenser is right in front of me. "Please clean your hands and go on in." I am monitored as I follow her instructions.

One week ago. Visit the lab at my own clinic. Its a repeat performance. Stopped at the front door I was separated from staff by a two metre glass wall. Questions. "Do I have a fever, cough or sore throat?" Signage reinforces the interrogator. "No". A sanitizer dispenser is right in front of me. "Please clean your hands and go on in." I am monitored as I follow her instructions. Consistent. I appreciate the diligence.

Yesterday. Accompany an adult to a three-physician practice. No signage, no sanitizer, no questions. Doctor shakes my hands and we chat. He joins the patient in his office. I wonder about the patient who just came out of his office.

Yesterday. Accompany the same adult to a lab - one of many outlets of a very large corporation. Lots of pandemic related signs -- I count at least three on the counter alone -- saying: Stop - Clean Your Hands. One sign asks about symptoms: If you have a cough or shortness of breath (especially if new) - please report and wear a mask. At least 22 other people walk in while I wait. Just two people use the obvious bottle of sanitizer. The crowd includes a young father with a three-day-old child. The visit, the father tells me later, is for the child. No preferential treatment provided. No one from staff asks any one any questions about their general health. Or their throats or coughs. No one is monitored to see if they sanitize their hands. One lab technician is wearing a plastic face shield. Two others are not. Everyone who enters stands in front of the signs to announce their arrival and is told to take a "number" -- a piece of plastic about the size of a Bicycle Poker Card. Everyone does. The baby is in arms as dad holds the card. [Gee they are beautiful at that age and dad is doing a pretty good job despite her fussiness.]

One man (about 75 years old) sits and waits, keeps coughing one of those deep gurgling coughs. He tries to stifle them and turns his face to the right. Now his seat mate is in the direct line of fire. A few times he puts his right hand to his mouth as he coughs. In this same hand he is holding his "poker card." His plastic poker card. When his number comes up he walks to the counter and returns it to the card dispenser - ready for the next patient. Glad he didn't leave before the baby arrived.

Beside me is a play area for children. It's mostly full of red, yellow and green blocks but no children. Good thing. I can imagine where each one of those blocks would be if there were children in there. I silently dub this the little spittle flu box.

The patient with me is done. We leave and decide to walk down the stairs. The elevator is half full. Full enough. No need to play the odds.

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