Sick Old People : Does Anybody Care?

By TD Fuego 

We shall not dwell on the propriety or (impropriety?) of the Med Point Hospital deal because enough has been written and said on the subject. The Director of Audit and the MRA will no doubt have something to say in case there has been any hanky-panky.

At the end of her monologue last week — at her one-way press conference, that is, Health minister Mrs Maya Hanoomanjee concluded that, in acquiring the Med Point Hospital, gouvernement fine gagne value for Mauny. And, that may well be so, but the question that needs an answer is whether the PEOPLE have received value for money.We are told that the Med Point Hospital will be turned into a badly needed geriatric hospital which will cater for the needs of all elderly people who require its services. On paper, this is a wonderful idea, almost ground-breaking stuff for the National Health Service (NHS). Normally, it rushes along at snail’s pace even to make much needed medication available to patients. Most years, it is late with the administration of flu jabs to Old Age Pensioners and only gets round to it in the middle of winter, perhaps unaware that it takes weeks for the patient to gain immunity after injection. Often, when we go to collect our medication at the hospital pharmacy, we are told pa ena. For this, read “we have run out, because someone forgot to order the next batch in time.”

So, when we scratch a little beneath the surface of the skin of this Super deal, it is to be wondered whether the best interest of the people, in particular the elderly people that it aims to serve, has been at the forefront of the promoters of this project. There are several aspects that make it doubtful. Inter alia, these are cost, transport, convenience and accessibility.

The Acid Test

Cost. For instance, did anyone calculate what it would cost to attach a geriatric wing to the 4 regional hospitals with their existing infrastructure against the cost of the Med Point Hospital, and the infrastructure that has to be added to it? One does not have to be a quantity surveyor or experienced builder; common sense tells us it may well have been less costly. But, cost aside, accessibility is also an important factor.

Transport. Has anyone wondered how patients and relatives will travel to and from the Med Point Hospital? As things stand, one can only access it by walking from the Phoenix shopping mall or the Vacoas road — both of them quite a walk and difficult, if not impossible, on rainy/windy days. In many cases, the only persons to visit the patient will probably be their elderly spouse. Has anybody given any thought as to how easily this old person will gain access to the Med Point Hospital ?

Time factor. Then, imagine the time it would take someone from Grand Gaube, Bambous Virieux or Gris Gris to visit a parent at the Med Point Hospital — at least half a day. It is already a well known phenomenon that, once hospitalized, old people rarely get visitors. By putting a geriatric hospital in a far, remote place, did anyone wonder if the patient will get any visitors at all? On the other hand, with the relative ease of access to the regional hospital, they would be assured some visits by friends and relatives.

The Early visit. In all our hospitals, relatives are allowed access to the wards at 6.30 am, not as a special favour, but to provide the real nursing care that the nursing staff cannot or will not offer. It becomes the relatives’ job to clean an incontinent patient and feed someone unable to do it themselves. Given the vagaries of our public transport, it is difficult to imagine an old lady from Anse Jonche being able to make it to MC early every morning to help her husband. So, what provision has the NHS made to ensure that patients spend their time at the Med Point Hospital in dignity?


It is clear that, when dealing with sick people, value for money means much more than the Rupee cost of the building and its infrastructure. It is only one consideration among many others. Location and accessibility are paramount.

A patient having a heart attack in a wing at Candos can get the necessary treatment fast, within minutes in the Cardiac unit of that hospital. By the time he is transported from the Med Point Hospital, it may well be too late. And this type of scenario is as infinite as there will be patients at the Hospital. Does anybody care? What value (for mauny) do they attach to a life? 

* Published in print edition on 4 February 2011

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