Inside a British Hospital

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

By B. Ramlallah

Reflecting on past experiences, even if they were challenging, often brings a sense of satisfaction. This account, though personal, offers a glimpse into the workings of a British hospital that may intrigue Mauritian readers.

During an official visit by the Mauritian Press Delegation, I fell unexpectedly ill while residing in Sloane Gardens, London. Initially dismissing it as temporary, it soon worsened, with escalating fever and cardiac issues. Late into the night, I urged my landlord, Mr Corbett, to seek medical help. Unable to contact a private doctor, he called the Health Emergency Services, who promptly dispatched assistance. A decision was made to admit me to St Stephen’s Hospital on Fulham Road, where an ambulance swiftly transported me.

At St Stephen’s Hospital, I was treated with quintessential British courtesy. Upon arrival, my vital signs were quickly assessed, and I was settled into Ward 5B amidst a quiet, night-time atmosphere. Despite my feverish state, the nurses’ gentle reassurances provided solace, transporting me into a surreal experience that was both unsettling and enlightening. This marked my first hospital admission, offering a unique perspective on hospital management during challenging times.

St Stephen’s, part of the Chelsea group of hospitals, boasts 450 beds and accommodates various departments including maternity, paediatric, and TB wards. It serves as a semi-teaching hospital affiliated with London University, where medical students observe and study complex cases. In Ward 5B, under the supervision of Cardiologist Dr Raymond Daley, students frequently observed treatments for cardiac patients, receiving detailed explanations of each case.

Ward 5B features 28 beds, each with movable curtains for privacy. Patients have access to headphones connected to the hospital’s main radio, while emergency oxygen inhalers are on standby. Wooden lockers with formica tops are standard, supplied without competitive tendering, a decision that stirred controversy among medical authorities.

Daily routines in the hospital were punctuated by morning tea and breakfast served by night-shift nurses, followed by mid-morning coffee or Ovaltine, and lunches delivered by the ward sister and nursing staff. Afternoon tea and supper continued the routine, with patients able to dine in bed or, for a more formal setting, at a shared table. The abundance of food often challenged patients to finish their meals, with attentive nurses ensuring comfort and satisfaction.

The hallmark of British hospitals lies in the personal care and empathy displayed by medical staff. Consultant Physician Dr Harvey greeted patients warmly during morning rounds, setting a compassionate tone. Ward sisters, like the one in charge of Ward 5B, fostered a familial atmosphere, greeting each patient daily and ensuring their well-being. This camaraderie extended beyond nationality, with a diverse nursing staff and patient community enriching the hospital environment.

Visitation policies allowed evening visits daily and longer hours on weekends, fostering familial connections crucial to patient recovery. Visitors often brought flowers, placed in vases by nurses as tokens of goodwill. The hospital’s Almoner, a trained social scientist, managed patient welfare beyond hospital walls, updating families and supporting patients emotionally.

Mutual appreciation between patients and staff was evident, with gestures like offering flowers to nurses and returning after discharge to express gratitude. This reciprocal care underscored a shared ethos: service to patients as service to a higher calling, supported by the Ministry of Health’s vigilant oversight and responsiveness to public concerns.

In essence, my hospital experience illuminated the blend of professionalism and compassion inherent in British healthcare, revealing a system upheld by dedicated professionals committed to patient well-being amidst diverse challenges.

Published in Mauritius Times, Friday 4th December, 1959

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 21 June 2024

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