Free health services in Mauritius: What about dignity of patients?

The Mauritius Health Service under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life leaves a lot to be desired.

My wife was unfortunate enough to become ill and had to be admitted to the Victoria Hospital at Candos in May 2013. She had developed an acute abdominal pain. At the Accident and Emergency Department, she was seen quickly by the medical staff but some time elapsed before a decision was made about her admission.

I was surprised to observe that the dignity of patients was not considered as a priority. The Doctors wanted to examine my wife’s abdomen without even providing adequate privacy. Portable screens were available but they were ignored until I requested that they be used. Finally when it was decided to admit her to ward B9, I had to return to the reception for an “admission slip” which I had to pass to another member of staff who, I believe, arranged for the admission.

Illness or visits to hospital for any reason are stressful enough. But for a relative to go to and fro is worse: it causes anxiety, it is time-consuming and this is unwarranted. I wonder why the admission procedure cannot be dealt with “internally” by the medical staff. One phone call from the casualty officer to the receiving ward would suffice, provided all relevant history and other accurate data are passed on.

The hospital transport that took us to the ward had to drop off other patients first. What worried me though was time wasted by the driver; he was more interested in speaking with his friends that driving us to our “destinations”. Priority was given to a patient with heart problems; but believe it or not my wife had to walk from the vehicle to the ward unaided – although she was escorted by her relative.

In the ward, more surprises were waiting for us. We were not warmly received by the nurses. I am in no doubt that some of them lack bedside manners, the very first component that makes a nurse a nurse in the ethos of care. I had the privilege of relaying my views to some of them. They listened sympathetically, but whether or not this created the desired impact on them remains to be seen. I do wish that others who follow will reap the benefits. One of the tutors from the school of nursing, which is within the compound, agreed 100% with me. I leave everything in her capable hands.

The day my wife was discharged, I felt that the attitude of the nurses had changed for the better. I informed my wife about it. She said: “It’s only because they know you are a nurse too.” I wish the minister concerned could get able and appropriate people in the change process. [Incidentally, I wrote to the Ministry of Health in 2012. I am still awaiting for a favourable reply.] Will it come or am I too optimistic?

We all may need the services of the hospital and their personnel one day. Let us raise the standards forever and let that road to excellence be dynamic.


* Published in print edition on 27 December 2013

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