At last, the turn of the senior citizens to be vaccinated had arrived, so my wife and I decided to get ourselves to our local hospital. Early last Monday, we set off for Candos, arriving there at a reasonable time, grandfather clock said 8.45 am when we crossed the threshold of the hospital. The queue was already at least a quarter of a mile long and proceedings were about to start or had only just begun. One hour or so later, progress in the queue appears to be insignificant and with the hot summer sun beating down, there was no place to hide or search for shade. There were already a number of elderly people on site, some searching for a semblance of cover and others to rest their tired legs and at this stage, things were just warming up in every sense. Leaving the queue put you at risk of losing your place, so it was Hobson’s choice, stay put and hope that you don’t get sunstroke.

No seats were proffered to anyone queuing even to those who appeared quite frail as there were no officials around, only a few policemen to maintain order. Of course, the crowd was already of some consequence because some clever advisor or mandarin in authority had decided that it was not just reserved for the elderly as it was initially planned the previous week but anybody could attend. No doubt, this had been a determining factor in swelling the crowd. The queue by now was over a mile long and threading its way in front and at the side of the casualty department. The front and the end of the queue were now adjacent to each other and still growing substantially and it was not far from noon.

There is a British saying that goes like this, I will delete the rude words as not to offend anyone: “They could not organize a p… up in a brewery’, it seems tailor-made for that occasion. By now, some of the senior citizens and even some hardy youngsters were leaving out of despair and those who had reached the front of the building were showing great patience in the hope that salvation would be in sight shortly. We eventually reached the injection room at 13.15. We had been queuing for four and half hours (4.5 hours). After eventually receiving the vaccine and completing the formalities, we left at 2.15 pm, so now it was some five and half hours since we set foot in the hospital. That is the time that it had taken us to complete the proceedings from start to finish and we need to come back in 12 weeks’ time. Hopefully by then, the advisers who are paid a princely salary would have got their act together, if ever that was possible.

Now inside the room where the vaccines were being given. It was a bit like organized chaos.  On entering the room, you were given a form and a card and ask to sit down. You had to complete the form and card and at the same time, move along like an automaton from chair to chair as it became vacant. Eventually, when you got to the front of the room where there were several officials in white coats sitting. You were not directed where to go first, you took pot luck until all the documents were completed and smoothly on to the medical team in charge of giving the vaccine. Once completed, you were asked to go to another section of the same room and wait for your name to be called. If you were at the back of the room or a bit deaf (considering there was a substantial number of elderly persons present), you might have missed hearing your name because there were some people standing in front of the desk instead of sitting on the chairs provided, one or two of them were angry and shouting at the officials, it was total pandemonium. I must concede that the staff present were doing their best though they were under great pressure  Eventually, when you got your card duly completed and stamped, it was time to go. It has taken five hours plus to complete the whole procedure. Obviously, the whole organization of subsequent similar events need to be revisited.  My suggestions for future vaccination days for what it is worth, are as follows:

  1. The elderly should be given priority initially and a separate day for those falling under a younger category, instead of being open to all comers, that can only create pandemonium.
  2. There must be some green spaces at the back of the hospital, why not erect a marquee with chairs to house all the people attending. Everyone on arrival should have been given a number and the card and forms to be completed (that would save time for all concerned) then they should be asked to sit under the said marquee and not move until their number is called. (Must be possible to have the same facilities provided when there is an official inauguration)
  3. Failing that the elderly must be advised to bring a small stool/chair, a hat/umbrella, sufficient liquid refreshments/ a light snack considering the inordinate waiting time.
  4. From there, they could be moved in batches of 50 or as deemed appropriate to sit in the waiting room of the vaccination centre until they are called.
  5. The area inside the vaccination room should be clearly signposted, directing which way to proceed and clerical help provided as required.
  6. Why not consider the Medi clinics and the Area health centres as alternative venues? The recipients would have less to travel and that would reduce the pressure on the five main hospitals

Let us hope that those to follow will be better looked after. Remember organization and communication are the key words to reduce inconvenience to a maximum. If it is worth doing, let us do it well.