What a doc's waiting room tells you

Ugly curtains put me off. Call me shallow, by all means. But I judge a book by its cover – especially in guest houses, doctors’ waiting rooms and lawyers’ offices.

It now also turns out that privacy curtains in hospitals are absolutely laden with germs. But let's concentrate on things closer to home for the moment.

A GP, who has chosen ancient yellow and brown sun filter curtains for her waiting room, makes me wonder whether the last medical journal she read also came from the seventies. Is her medical knowledge also a hand-me-down from the era of the Bee Gees?

I want to relax in a guest house – not be traumatised by curtains so bright that they’re enough to induce a fit of some kind. There are many public places I can visit with curtains ugly enough to bring tears to my eyes – and all for free.

Ditch the strip blinds
Oh yes, and if I am paying thousands to see a lawyer, I expect him to spend some money on his office. In short, get rid of those strip blinds. They make you look cheap, and believe me, you’re not.

I know I run the risk of sounding like a spoilt brat, who whinges about soft furnishings in a country where people are dying on the streets. And let’s face it, if you’re being carried into a hospital on a stretcher and you have the strength to notice the curtains, you should be sent home. You’re occupying a bed unnecessarily.

But I am not talking about emergencies in this article. I am talking about the professionals to whom I pay a fortune for their services. And the care they take over what their places of work look like to their clients. Or the lack of care.

Something that I have learnt in the last few years is that ‘cheap’ and 'ugly' are not necessarily synonyms. You don’t have to spend a fortune in order to create a pleasant ambience. Bull white denim will do the trick – and you can buy it from a cheap chain store. Less is indeed more.

Doctor's waiting room blues
And on the topic of doctors’ waiting rooms: fish are out (too seventies), magazines that are more than six months old need to be relegated to the rubbish bin, broken plastic toys are depressing, as are frayed blocked pictures chucked out of a parent's holiday home. These all give a slightly more tatty impression than I would like to have of a person who is about to stick needles into me.

The receptionist is important too – she doesn’t have to be model material, but she needs to be kind and efficient. She is dealing with sick people after all. Someone who behaves as if she’s on a day out from a military boot camp is not going to make the grade. She should be kicked out – preferably carrying the yellow sun filter curtains under the arm.

So, if your patient numbers are dropping, don’t do a medical refresher course. Clean up, throw out and spend a few thousand on your waiting room. See it as legitimate advertising. And it’s tax deductible.

Read more: Too embarrassed to go to the GP?

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated September)

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