Girls To The Left, Boys To The Right



It’s our ‘holiday vaccination day’ at a local medical centre. We enter the building through two separate entrances; one male, one female, only to be joined together again at one big reception desk the other side. Our family is separated by gender, at first by nightclub-rope, and then by a glass wall partition in the waiting area. Nearly a year in, and I still find this separation of genders odd.

We had tried and failed the day before to get vaccinations so we came back, this time more prepared – arriving 20 minutes ahead of opening time. We waited outside at our corresponding entrances, already 38 degrees at 8.40am.

It’s at times like these I respect our lifelong British training in how to queue. You see, not everyone receives that same training, so despite being first at the door, I find someone’s buggy wheel jammed in front of one foot and a sharp elbow at my waist on the other side, both vying for first place. It appears we all receive different personal space training too.

The men’s door is opened first, my husband gets the first ticket, we get the third. We are allowed to be seen as a family to assess what vaccinations we will need for a forthcoming trip. When it’s time for the actual injections…. it’s back to different gender areas we go.

The girl’s room to the left, the boy’s to the right. It seems I get the easier option as I have just one apprehensive child to calm. Twenty minutes later, we are all done and I reach for my credit card, between us we have received 15 vaccinations and five boxes of malaria tablets.

The balance is zero. It is free. And we… are free to go.

So, serious question, who just paid for that? We received 20 items, interacted with seven members of staff and occupied about an hour of their time – and we were only ticket number one. The waiting room is bustling with people, none of whom have paid a single penny in income tax. So who just paid for that?

Looking back, the state have received monies from us in the form of immigration visas, resident permits, driving licences, a few speeding fines – but overall, all small admin fees and nothing really significant. Not the kind of funds that would keep multiple medical centres in operation. I continue to be baffled, just how that works. There are now over 2 million non tax paying people living here, not all will have medical insurance, but many will need medical care.

So who pays? Answers on a postcard please.