Medical testing - Cough please, and sign here.

In order to get our residency completed, the government agencies require that there is some kind of proof that we, as prospective citizens, weren't bringing the pox or the plague, or.. or.. COOTIES to this fine land.

We passed, or they didn't do the right tests...

We went on separate days - and weeks apart as it took a little longer to get my documents organised, but it seems that while Mrs AD-ist hit the ladies line and sailed through - me being of the blokey persuasion meant that I had a couple more hoops to jump through.

Now, this is not a procedure you need to go through for visit visa's - this is purely to finalise your residency status. The procedures involved are pretty straight forward - it's getting from the waiting room to procedure rooms that's the fun bit.

I'll ask Mrs AD-ist what her experience was and put in a separate post, but from what I can gather she had angels sing and winged cherubs guiding her about the place in comparison to the men folk.

We were both tested at the same facility - Mrs AD-ist because that is where the company sent her, and me because Mrs AD-ist knew where it was, and that it was easily reached by bus.

I'd been forewarned by some of Mrs AD-ist's work mates that I need to take a large book and write off the entire day, which was fine for me, I was only skipping out on dishes and floor sweeping anyway. I would have held a household staff meeting in the way in the bus, but I am tired of people looking at me while I chastise myself for sub-par house work, or complaining bitterly (again to, and about myself) that the sweeping guy didn't do a good enough job, which put the mopping guy back 10 minutes.

The facility is called, charmingly- "The Disease Prevention and Screening Centre" and is located just off the corner of Airport Road and Bateen.

Where? Just get in a cab and ask them to take you to Al Wahda Mall, which is on the corner diagonally opposite where you wish to be. Cross carefully at the lights then walk away from Al Wahda mall for about 100 metres and there you are.

Do the same if you are travelling in under your own steam then utilise Al Wahda's underground parking rather than try and squeeze in to the unusually organised carpark at the front of the medical facility. It also makes for a good excuse to imbibe in some post testing retail therapy OR coffee, or the fabulous LuLu Hypermarket that is located in Al Wahda's lower floors.

I confess I got up a little later than I had planned, this became more concerning the closer I got to the Screening Centre. The the amount of traffic in and out of the door made it look like it was the entry to a very large and very busy ants nest. As many people were trying to get out as get in, but I employed my usual tactic of stepping into the flow of the line and just let it carry me toward where I wanted to go.

The added degree of difficulty on this particular day was that apart from "through the door", my destination in typical Abu Dhabi fashion, was a vague point somewhere inside the building.

I'm big on lines, not because I am a stickler for order (long time readers of this blog will attest to that), but because for the most part if you don't know where you are going, if you stand in a line you at least appear to know where you are.

Just inside the doors the progress of the "Disease and Screening Centre conga line" was hampered by another line that had developed crossing it's path. I stepped out of my current queue and leapt into the flow of this new line, and that was where progress slowed, things became a little more orderly and I was relatively comfortable that I was heading in the right direction.

We were being funnelled along the front of a long desk which is situated immediately inside and to the right of the entry doors.

4 Guys behind the desk.
First guy is sitting on the desk talking to second guy who is seated in a chair, may have been a discussion about the weekend as they seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Third guy - talking on mobile phone.
Last guy - doing the work of 4 guys.

While waiting for Last Guy to finish what he was doing with the stack of other guys ahead of me in line, I looked through the next set of glass doors and into the huge waiting room, complete with numbering system and announcements every 2 seconds or so telling the folk waiting what number is being summoned to which counter.

I naturally figured that was what Last Guy was doing as he was tutt-tutting over paper work and jamming a sticker, peeled from an ever lengthening roll of sticker backing, on the top of each document he had thrust at him - I thought that HE was allocating the numbers.

I felt that warm feeling of smugness creeping over me again - I'd sorted it out, not problem, I am the ex-pat king.

No - no I hadn't, sorted it out that is.

For the record: the paperwork I required was a copy of my passport (photo page) and a copy of the A4 sized visa certificate - all this is stated in the document on the Government Portal -check with your work people though to be sure though as it seems that these rule can change from day to day, OR person to person, and then change back just as quickly.

I smiled at Last Guy when it was finally my turn and handed over the required bits of paper. He kind of smiled back and responded well to me saying good morning in Arabic, whacked the stamp on the top sheet and waved me away...

...toward the waiting room was my guess, I mean - I HAD the number didn't I... on closer inspection the sticker simply said 11.00am. It was 10.15. Was that my appointment time? I decided to test the water in the next room.

As I moved into the waiting room I walked smack into another line (I've already explained my appreciation of lines, so I won't go on about it) and waited dutifully for it to move toward the little desk - again following the "immediately inside and to the right" theme. I had hopes for the this desk - as there was only one person working at it, and as a result that one person didn't appear to be making noises about doing the work of 4, she simply got on with it.

The queue moved slowly, but I must have had my "I think I'm in the right place, but am not sure so I'll just stand here looking smug" face on. A guy who's job it was to wrangle the people coming in to the waiting room away from the doorway took it upon himself to make sure that the large bald bloke standing in his doorway actually needed to be there.

I didn't it turns out, and I love this next bit - truly.

He told me that the sticker on the top of my paperwork denoted that I had to come back at 11am to line up for a ticket.

Yes. I had essentially lined up for a ticket, that permitted me to line up for a ticket, but at a later time.

Wrangler Guy looked a little strangely at me when I started to laugh, then joined in with my obvious good humour about the situation. Or he thought I might be a little soft in the head. Or both.

I left, pushing against the tide of folk coming into the room. I crossed the foyer to the little cafeteria and purchased a tea and a water for about 5dhs and headed outside to wait.

There is a well kept piece of grass separating Bateen Rd and the Screening centre, with some big palms providing shade and sat down next to a group of labourers and enjoyed the April day.

30 minutes shot by - all a bit pleasant really, then back to line up for my ticket.

It seemed a little quieter at 11am than when I had arrived earlier, so if I were to do it again MAYBE it would be a better to show up later in the morning. Most of the people waiting were labourers, and I guess that the view taken by their employment companies was to get them in and processed early so that they could get back to work.

I got my number and settled in for the wait - about an hour, but had come armed with a book, so no big deal. EXCEPT for the constant noise of the numbers being called by one of those automated "number 123 please go to counter 123" voices blazing away every 5 seconds - first in English then Arabic.

I stood and moved to the aisle with about 5 numbers to go - and got myself primed for the stride up to the counter. After all this time waiting I didn't want to be relegated to the back of the queue again... I mean I like the idea of lining up to get a ticket, to get a ticket, but as an experience to be had infrequently - NOT twice in 1 day.

The person behind the counter was super efficient, and had my papers processed in no time at all. Upon sitting though I noticed that there was a camera pointed at me and situated at about face height in the cubicle. I figured that at some point I'd be asked to stare at the camera for a mug shot, so I was a bit surprised after handing over the requested 250dhs that she handed me a card and a docket and pointed me in the direction of the testing rooms.

I don't have the document anymore as it went to the Visa folk, otherwise I'd pop a copy of it up here. It seems that the photo on it was taken just as I was sitting down at the desk - I wasn't even looking at the camera! Hah! Again, whatever works, I'm happy with.

The testing was really straight forward - in for a quick discussion with the Doctor - he was most interested that I was from Australia, and wished me a Happy Easter. Then to the blood room where a vial of blood was taken, and last but not least - the chest x-ray.

There were about 5 of us in the ante room inside the x-ray room door. A gruff and dishevelled guy told me to take of my shirt and line up, which I did... I wanted to discuss my affection for lines but thought better of it. In hindsight he could have been Last (from the front desk) Guy's brother.

The x-ray is done standing with ones arms around a movable x-ray pad, fine for me.. Gruff Guy just lifted the pad up to the required height (I was the tallest person in the ante room), NOT fine for the poor guy immediately after me... he was maybe a foot (30cms) shorter, and no one had thought to lower the pad for him.

The giggling began in the control room and spread to the changing room as we all turned our attention to the poor dude. He was all but hanging off the x-ray machine trying to get up high enough for the required chest shot. One shot had already been taken. Of His head. He looked a little shame faced - but in his defence he was only doing what he was told to do by Gruff Guy. It's just that Gruffy G wasn't looking at where he was pointing the guy to go.

Gruffy dropped the pad to a respectable height, allowing the new guy to have his proper x-ray done. A bit of good natured patting on the shoulder by the rest of his group ensued, this seemed to put New Guy at ease though... I grinned at him and gave him the thumbs up, he returned the grin then looked at his feet, still smiling though so I'm sure he'll live.

Gruff Guy handed me my card with all the boxes now ticked on it and said "Tomorrow, after 6pm" and then turned back to misdirecting poor unsuspecting x-ray participants. This instruction I took to mean "Your test results will be available tomorrow after 6pm, please bring this card with you to claim them". Amazing how much information comes from such a short sentence. That and a little cross referencing with Mrs AD-ist as to how the experience was likely to go assisted in the translation as well.

I did indeed return the following day, at 6pm.

I almost left to check the sign at the front of the building to confirm that it was actually the same place, only about 20 people in attendance at that time - and 15 of those were staff.

Went into the now all but empty waiting room and, as a new experience, went for the desk immediately inside and to the LEFT of the waiting room doors. Handed my card over and that was it.

All that was left was to hand these new docs and my passport over to Mrs AD-ist 's PRO for the final procedures. Ooooh yes... residency was so close I could smell the shisha!

End note:
It will take time to get this procedure done, so don't make any other solid plans for the day. Just go with the flow, and you'll feel better for it. I keep on saying to myself (and others) "You can do this easy, or you can do this hard".

It really is up to the individual as to how stressed they want to be.

Making other plans that you absolutely have to attend to is only inviting the bureaucracy gods to smite thee with a longer wait. Far better to clear the day, and make some spontaneous plans if you get out early.

1 comment:

  1. I really feel for you, when I had my med check a man from Paul's work organized it all. He picked me up in the morning, drove me to the same center you went to, then handed me my papers and the money to pay for it, being a woman there were no queues to get into the waiting room, waited 5 min for my number to be called and everything went like clock work from there.
    The only strange thing for me was when the doctor asked if if was married (yes), pregnant (no), the look on her face made be feel like I was an alien from outer space at best or a failure to all women at worst.
    Well after it was all done, I called my helpful helper again and he picked me up and drove me home. And as I never went back I assume he picked up my tests results as well, because I have a nice shiny med insurance card.


Andrew Webber is a writer, living in Abu Dhabi with his wife, two cats and two dogs.

His first book "Erasure" was published in June 2012 and was followed in 2013 by the Prequel to Erasure, "Broken".

In 2016 Erasure was a prize winner in the Montegrappa Writing Prize - part of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

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