Should it be compulsory for all hospital staff to wear a badge?

Reading V. Harris’s letter (Friday 20-26 Dec 2013) in MT really ruffled my feathers up and I will come to that later. In December 2011, over the X-mas period, I attended the A and E department at Dr Jeetoo hospital and I had to ask the doctor for his name. I stayed in a surgical ward for three days and when I was discharged again I had to ask for the doctor’s name and whether he was a registrar. If he had worn a badge, I wouldn’t have had to go through all this rigmarole. It is the right of every patient to know who is looking after him/her.

Last month, an acquaintance was referred to A and E at Dr Jeetoo again by his local Health Centre for an injection of insulin as his blood sugar was 23 mmol. But the casualty officer gave him tablets and barely spoke or looked at him. What’s her name, we asked. ‘How would I know? She wasn’t wearing a badge.’ He didn’t mind not getting the injection but was more upset by the lack of concern from that doctor.

Coming to Mr Harris and his comments about bedside manners and welcoming patients: Sir, you should know that this is not Europe and people here are not that advanced in their ways. I have worked in the heart of Europe itself, that is Switzerland. With due respect, I’ll say maybe in 20 years’ time, who knows, the approach might change. As for me, I got so used to welcoming patients, that once I even welcomed a corpse in A and E, not knowing he was brought in dead and had been so for two days at home.

In September 2012, I was admitted in a NHS hospital in North London for one week, with food poisoning. All members of staff who came to see me in my room introduced themselves. Even the pharmacist came to discuss my tablets and brought my medicines to the ward and a discharge letter for my GP. A nurse helped me with my bags to the main entrance.

Some hospital staff here carry out their duties diligently, be it maids, nurses and others – but not all. I have been a victim myself. That money for those drugs is not coming out of anybody’s pocket for we are taxpayers. Nobody gives something for nothing and any accountant will tell you that. Because of that surgeon’s inappropriate treatment and after five weeks of agony, my son had to take me to a private clinic and foot a bill the length of his arm. Shame.

When I asked a student nurse and a Health Care Assistant very politely for a bowl to clean my teeth, they refused it. Where was I going to spit now? Luckily a ‘sac plastique 50 sous’ saved the day. That day, I couldn’t stand up and you call them nurses, they should be working in factories. I don’t know how and what they teach them in the school of nursing here.

If I had done that to a patient in the UK, the Director of Nursing would have given me a right royal kick the very next day. Here the staff are lucky, no one pays much attention to complaints. I also think the PSC, while interviewing prospective candidates, should make sure that they really want to care for the sick and are just not after a government job and wear that uniform.

Our staff are handsomely paid. No one works for free here. They get their days off, local leave, sick leave, overtime pay, vacation leave or accumulated leave, passage benefits, a huge lump sum when they retire plus their pension and duty free cars. In which country do civil servants get all these fringe benefits and why is it almost everyone wants a government job? If the work is too hard, there is always an exit.

Some people here do not seem to realize how much a kind word or a smile can mean to a sick person, and it costs nothing. A Chinese proverb says that a man who cannot smile should not open a shop. I say someone who doesn’t know how to smile should not be working with people. When I went to the UK in the late 60s to do nursing, it was because of the patients, otherwise we would all have remained here twiddling our thumb and jobless.

If I am not mistaken, I think it was Mrs Hanoomanjee, former health minister who introduced the system of nursing staff taking blood specimens at 7 am instead of 8 am in Health Centres. Previously, patients had to wait for so long to break that fast and it didn’t do justice to diabetics. Sometimes the staff came late but now they are always on time at Dr Bouloux et tout marche bien.

So I say bring her back where she belongs, maybe she’ll get this ministry back on the rails as there has been too much ‘laisser-aller’. The public fear for themselves, their sick children, their unborn babies, the newly born ones. For the staff maybe, a baby’s death post incubator is just another statistic but not for the parents. It was just unnecessary suffering for the baby. Such incidents should never be allowed to happen again for enough is enough.

A hospital should not inject fear in the public. Not everyone can afford to go to a private clinic unless they are willing to pay through their nose or on HP and incur debts. Staff should have to change their approach or leave and make room for others, who are really dedicated, for nursing is not an easy job.


* Published in print edition on 24 January 2014

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