There is nothing quite as panic inducing as a last minute bureaucratic hitch. Especially when it has something to do with foreign travel. Wanting to travel for a little while, I put together all the relevant documents and presented them to the embassy staffer. Or at least I thought I had. On Friday evening, I was informed that I had to include a medical form that proved that I had a clean bill of health. And I had to complete it by Sunday.
As anyone who has ever travelled will tell you, wanting to get the form completed in two days is easier said than done. According to one person I asked, it took about a week. And looking at the checklist, I could understand why. I was asked to provide a chest x-ray examination, an electrocardiograph test (to check my heart), a toxicology report (to show I wasn’t a drug addict) and a whole lot of very personal tests. All to prove that I wouldn’t infect people with my ‘African’ diseases if you know what I mean.
As I said earlier, I had only two days to get all those tests done. So, after Umuganda I went to the first hospital I could think of, privately-owned La Croix de Sud Hospital in Remera. I assumed that the private sector would be more willing to divest me of my hard-earned money. I was sadly mistaken. The public relations manager informed me that unless I was sick, I couldn’t see a doctor. When I pressed her I was told that the doctors weren’t in because it was a weekend. “But who will take care of people who come in sick’, I asked. “We have some doctors on call”, she answered. “If the doctors are here, why don’t you help me access one? I have an urgent visa application that needs to get done ASAP”, I tried to reason. “I can’t because they are not doing consultations today”, she said, dismissing me.
Without even a referral, I was sent on my way. I called around and was advised to visit a clinic in Kicukiro run by one Doctor Gasasira. Getting there at three in the afternoon, I was told that there wasnt anyone who could help me. It has closed at 1pm.
So there I was, in the depths of Kicukiro, hot, thirst and frustrated. I was at the end of my tether
and I could see my visa vanish in front of my eyes. I started scrolling through my phone contacts to see if I could call someone. That’s when I saw Dr. Alex Butera number. As a journalist I’d had conversations with the former King Faisal Hospital CEO, and I thought that he’d be a bit helpful. Well, as unhelpful as the PR person at La Croix de Sud was, the CEO was the direct opposite.
After hearing my predicament, not only did he promise to help me get in contact with doctors the next day, he promised to be there himself to assist me in any way he could.
With his assistance, I was able to get everything done by 2pm. All the doctors were extremely helpful and eager to please. Sadly, like a fly in the ointment, one department (which I won’t mention here) spoilt the good image that the previous five had made.
I believe that the only reason that this was possible was because it was being staffed by a middle-management personality. I found her talking loudly on the phone and despite seeing me she didn’t even have the courtesy to put the phone down. She finished her conversation and then took her sweet time to take my blood samples. When I asked about a particular test I was supposed to have, she informed me that I would have to get the results on Tuesday. Only after I invoked the name of the hospital’s bigwigs was I able to get my results that day.
I left the hospital with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was extremely thankful for the care the vast majority of the staff showed me. However, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the only reason that I was care of was because the ‘senior’ staff took a personal interest in my issue. What would’ve happened if I’d come to the hospital like any other Mutuelle card wielding muturage? I am sad to say that I’m of the opinion that the one department where I didn’t invoke the former CEO’s name was the one that showed me the reality of the customer care I would have received. While at the very top I was able to discern a real interest in my wellbeing, to the ‘lower’ levels, I was made to feel like an irritant.
I don’t want to make this column seem like a self-indulgent tirade against the hospital because it isn’t. Organisations need to spread the gospel of quality customer care and relations to each and every nook and cranny of their management structures. Remember than even one drop on ink can discolor an entire litre of clear water.