About a year ago billboards started popping up around Las Vegas advertising the local hospitals. Each billboard has a digital display showing the current wait time. At the beginning, the times varied from 10 or 12 minutes up to 30-35 minutes.
In addition to showing the (supposed) wait time in a changeable digital format, they also had pictures. One was of an older couple holding golf clubs and smiling broadly, another was a young kid on a skateboard, and another of a backyard barbecue.
I’m not exactly sure of the reason for the pictures. Do you think it was something stealthy like, “Yeah, you’re having a good time now, but you’re going to need us before very long!” or subliminal like “Hospitals are just part of every-day life, get used to it”? Whatever the reason, it seemed disingenuous. Maybe it was meant to be reassuring, like, “see, people just like you aren’t afraid to go to the hospital. You shouldn’t be, either.”
It reminds me somewhat of the ads for medications that have a voice-over announcer reading the list of dire side-effects starting with in-grown toenail and on through the list of things like incontinence, paralysis and death, all while the TV screen shows a happy couple in a canoe on a lake. (“Look at the pretty picture, folks, don’t think about the reality.”)
The next series of billboards advertised, “Call and make a reservation at our emergency room.” That one blew me away. Uh, say what? So you call and say, “I’m feeling fine right now, but this afternoon about 2:30 I’m going to trip on the front steps and hurt my ankle. Can I make a reservation for an X-ray, please?” Really? Someone at the ad agency must have seen one and realized how foolish that was because they have all disappeared.
Anyway, what has happened recently is that the digital numbers for the wait times at the advertising hospitals has dramatically dropped. I now see times ranging from 3 minutes to a maximum of 10, but usually not above 8. So what’s changed?
Did the hospital suddenly get more efficient? Or did they change the definition of “wait time”? Or are they flat-out fibbing? Hmmm, I wonder.
One time I had to go to a clinic and they promised that “you will be seen within 5 minutes.” Really? Great! No, not really. Their definition of being seen was when the woman behind the sliding glass panel actually looks up from her computer or clip-board, greets you and checks your name off the sign-in sheet. To be “seen” by a medical professional is a whole ‘nother dish-of-fish.
I’m very glad that I have had no occasion to use a hospital for many, many years. I don’t know if I really want to know how long the supposed wait would be. I mean, if the closest hospital has a long wait time but the one on the other side of town could see me in under 8 minutes, would it be worth the drive to go there?
And back to the happy people on the golf course … He: “Uh, honey, I don’t feel so good. I think I might be having a heart attack.”
She: “Hold on, let me just text the hospital and see … oh, no, we’d have to wait 20 minutes …”
He: (falling to his knees), “Honey, just call 9-1-1.”
She: “Okay, but I think we can do better than 20 minutes. Oh, yes, here’s another one — it’s further away, but the wait time is only 8 minutes.”
He: (whimper, gurgle …)
She: “Oh, okay, darling, I got it. Here’s one that we can get into in 12 minutes and it’s only a few miles from here.”
She: “Oh, No!! Henry, HENRY! Get up!!” Sobbing and throwing down her clubs, “Damn! I knew I should have called ahead for a reservation!”