Please bring in the changes

By Mona Babajee

I am writing simply to tell the public to stop taking things lying down for this scenario has lasted long enough. No one is working on a voluntary basis in our hospitals for they are being paid and handsomely so, with all the perks of a government job.

Nothing comes free and I don’t have to be an accountant to tell you that, for we do contribute indirectly towards our health services. If patients are not satisfied with their treatment and feel they are being neglected, relatives should go and see the hospital superintendent. And if you are told he is in a meeting or unavailable which is the usual answer, you have to insist. Don’t leave without seeing him.

If not, get in touch with the Health Minister and if he has no time to listen to your grievances and take action, next time politicians come knocking at your door begging for votes, just slam the door in their face. Then wipe their names off your slate. You have put them on a pedestal and you expect something back. It’s not as if you are asking for the moon.

Private radios are here also to help people air their frustrations. If the saints can’t oblige, then you have to seek the help of the Almightly himself, won’t you? Don’t be like a lamb being taken to the slaughter house. No sir. But then, with all that going from pillar to post, the patient would most likely have given up the ghost.

In September, when I was in that London Hospital with food poisoning (from eating outside) I was very sick and felt like a rag doll lying in that bed. For three days, I could barely open my eyes. I had to use the commode all day and all night and felt so ashamed. One day I asked the Turkish male nurse if I could walk to the loo, he said ‘No, you stay in your room as you are in no-fit state to walk there.’ And when I told the Filipino night nurse to borrow my newspaper to read — ‘No, I am here for your safety,’ he replied. Will you hear our nurses saying that to patients?

The buzzer was always placed within reach, in case I should need help. (I have worked with Philippine nurses in the UK, Switzerland and the Middle East and they were always good workers and soft spoken). As soon as someone would hear me retching, which was often, the anti-sickness injection would be ready without me having to shout ‘miss, miss’ until my voice would go hoarse. This is what they do at home ignoring elderly patients shouting for a drop of water or a post operative patient begging for an analgesic. If the medical and especially the nursing staff had ignored me, I don’t know how I would have felt and fared. I would have definitely written to the superintendent though. But they were an inspiration and I am telling you all this because a lot of people don’t know what real nursing is all about.

People at home seem to think that the patient is either daft or dumb or both, forgetting the fact that they are there because the patients are there. During my student days, my tutors and ward sisters were real dragons and battleaxes and the Lord help any nurse whom the patient or relative had made a complaint against. In the past, many of our doctors were British trained but once there, bedside manners seem to fly out of the window. Dr Ah-Kion was very good and Dr Atchia was very compassionate towards an alcoholic cum drug addict.

When the top brass become sick, they go to top notch clinics or abroad but ‘les tidimounes de ce people admirable’ have to knock on the hospital door. Don’t think all people who go to a clinic are loaded, sometimes they have to incur debts or relatives have to chip in to pay that bill. One clinic and hats off to it, allows patients in difficulties to pay in installments which is a very good thing, because how is the poor patient going to find a huge sum all of a sudden. But funny, that you have to buy your health on HP or hire purchase. Well, you have to, to spare yourself undue suffering and not rely on hospitals. My situation wasn’t a one-off at Dr Jeetoo and l’m sure many patients have been in the same predicament. If our minister does not pull his socks up and see to it that patient’s welfare come first, next time round, his name will be history.

Another important thing is this. Our sterile supply department, which is based at SSRN, I think, provides our hospitals with sterile instruments and dressings. These dressings which are usually gauze swabs and cotton wool balls come in a metal drum but once you open that drum and you dip in with your foraps all day, the contents no longer remain sterile. Clean yes but not sterile, for sterile means germ free. A sterile dressing for each patient should come in individual packs, then you can say, it really is sterile.

Once I watched a hoard of tutors and clinical instructors supervising a student nurse, who was doing a dressing, for her practical final exams, on a patient’s abdomen. Is this what they call sterile, I thought and no wonder wounds get infected and diabetic feet never seem to heal, only to end up with an amputation. The layman won’t notice anything different.

I am fed up and the public is fed up too with the treatment meted out to them and half baked answers, when something goes wrong. I may not be as fit as a flea but nonetheless, I am not talking through my hat.

* Published in print edition on 21 December 2012

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