The Hospital

Posted by Abdel Kadz on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 with 2 comments
I have been to hospitals before, medical institutions where I once had my clinical internship and ones where I volunteered my services as a physical therapist after getting my license to practice the same. I am familiar with the everyday hustle and bustle that makes up the hospital framework and the usual his and hellos one gives to other allied medical professionals. However, in some baffling way, the hospital that situated itself before me was poles apart; it would be a baptism of fire once the thick steel doors were opened for me.

The first thing I noticed were the natives, Saudis garbed in their traditional national dresses, with the men all in white and their headdress punctiliously put in place. The women were the exact opposite--all black with only their eyes seen by the outside world. Some of the Saudi women who work for the hospital were clad in their uniforms--blue, maroon, or beige, depending on the department they belong to--and they too had their head covers on. Then there were the Indians who make a sizeable hospital populace, from nurses to office employees to transport services (the foreign-looking person who picked me up at the airport was an Indian national). There were also expatriates of different races: Egyptians, who are mostly doctors, Jordanians, Syrians, Sudanese, Burmese, Nepalis, and not surprisingly the Filipinos. A hospital in the Middle East is half a hospital without Filipinos as health staff.

There was no difficulty singling out a Filipino from the other expatriates. It is as if we have internal sensors of our own that are once activated, with the resultant customary nod, when we see or meet a kababayan. Surely enough, I would befriend some of them as the days progressed, but just when you thought a countryman of your own would be there to lend a hand, sadly there would be some who simply don’t give a shit about you (a particular roommate would prove this case in a future entry). After two months of work here, I came to know that the Filipinos make up most of the workforce behind the hospital’s various departments--nursing, rad tech, med tech, NAs, and even physical therapy, the department I proudly belong to (in fact, all of the PT staff are Filipinos).

Hastily ambling the hospital hallways because my usher was walking in the same manner, we then reached Employee Services where I was welcomed with a quick new-hire orientation. It was a relief that the Saudis there spoke good English, so I did not have a problem communicating with them. While inside, they also issued a temporary Iqama for me, a residential permit that a foreign national should bring with him/her wherever s/he goes. The Iqama is an important document that in instances where you will be asked by a police officer to reproduce it and you cannot, it usually ends up you being in jail. And boy, you will never know when and where those checkpoints will be.

After everything was checked and in place, I was told that I could now go to my accommodation. I pondered where we would be heading and how long to get there. Remember that I have not slept yet for more than 24 hours. Even if my mind was on a roll of its own, my body was just dog-tired that I had never wanted rest so bad. Clutching my bag and a plastic full of free meal a new hire customarily gets for the next three days, we came out the same thick steel doors, and I left the hospital with the baptismal fire still ablaze even as the doors were slowly closing behind me.