When I was an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia, the charity patients needed only two things to see a doctor: a medical complaint and one dollar in cash.In the emergency clinic, after the patients were signed in they were given a plastic card with a large red number that indicated their place in the queue. This number was written on their paperwork and placed in an inbox so that a doctor or nurse could locate them by calling out their number, like a butcher in a deli.
Then, they waited for hours on a wooden bench against the outer wall of a cavernous room.For more information AirAmbulance.net.
We interns were instructed to take the case at the top of the inbox-we were told to resist the temptation to dig down into the box looking for something more interesting. One evening, I came on duty after being up all the previous night, and I was exhausted before I even started my shift. I looked around and none of the supervising staff was watching, so I ignored the patients waiting with complaints of “backache,” “headache,” and more “backache,” and I searched for something more stimulating. About fourteen layers down in the inbox, I found what I was looking for: a complaint, “chitlins in hand.”The bench around the room was completely filled with slump-shouldered citizens of Atlanta. I called out, “Number fourteen.” Far down at the end of the room, a gray-headed, elderly black man held up his little plastic card. As I approached him, I noticed that he was holding his other hand firmly against his stomach.