Aaah, there's nothing like getting acquainted with the A&E système of another country.
A friend had to go in to hospital (suddenly) for a test. We found the A&E entrance (the doors with the big 'no persons allowed' signs on it), registered, got a bar-code sticker each, and waited. After 2 doctors had seen her she was travelling on to other floors - I wasn't allowed to wait with her.
So I headed back to where we started. A guard appeared: I can't wait there! He led me out of the building and pointed to the building opposite. Sure enough, there's a waiting room over there, filled with muted tvs and people waiting with vacant expressions. The only signs of life came from the three receptionists, who moved bits of paper around and tapped at keyboards.
In theory, I thought it was a good system: keep the friends/family from clogging up hospital corridors; the medical staff would log updates on their system, which the receptionists would be able to access.
After an hour, no-one had been given any news. I caught a glance of the reception's PCs on the way to the vending machine.
They were playing solitaire.
I interrupted to ask about my friend. They scribbled her name on a piece of paper. A few other people came forward with other names, which were added to the list. The guy then left our building and went across to the hospital.
When he came back he sat behind his desk and announced the private/sensitive details to the entire room. It was the equivalent of: "Kelly? Yeah he has a problem with his colon; they think it might be cancer. They have to do another test... okay who's next... Bueller?"
I don't know if anyone ever got out of that room. About four hours later, Landlady phoned and bulldozed me into the hospital, saying "Just hand the phone to a doctor". I did. I don't know what she said but they led me straight to my friend and said I could wait with her.
The new waiting area didn't have any tv-zombie people. Instead people were bleeding and being violently ill into plastic bags and moaning in a zombie-like fashion.
By nightfall we got to go home. Remember that wine glass - my going-away present from work? The one that holds an entire bottle of wine...