Monday, October 29, 2007

Paddy Murray Is (a bit) Unwell (this time) II

WHEN you walk into a ward in an Irish hospital, one of the first things you will see is the television. Or maybe two televisions.
You may think that these televisions are a sign that the hospital and ultimately the HSE, wants to keep patients entertained, keep them occupied.
In fact, they are a sign of the utter contempt in which patients are held by the HSE.
In they eyes of those who administer our health service, right up to Minister Harney, patients are irritants, barely better than doctors and nurses.
Why else would one television set, or at best two, be put into a ward containing four or six patients?
If there is one thing that makes spending time in an Irish hospital bearable, it is the knowledge that those in whose care you have been placed, are dedicated, hard working and good at what they do.

It is, of course, a cliché to speak of the ‘caring professions.’ But there is no doubt that doctors and nurses, and indeed, the vast majority of those who work in hospitals in whatever area, are caring people. Sure, they get paid. And some of them get paid very well.
But the work is hard and the pay isn’t always what it should be.
It is a mystery, then, as to why our health service is constantly criticised and seems, forever, to be under attack from patients, their relatives and, indeed, those who work on the front line.
If I was employed by the health service, i would find it hard not to become demoralised in the fact of the relentless criticism.
But then, the criticism is rarely directed at those on front line.
It is those behind desks, be that in the Department of Health or in the HSE, that justifiably, bear the brunt of the criticism.
(Who was it who decided to put two television sets on the wall in a ward for four, or indeed six patients?
If the person furthest from the television wants to watch it, the sound has to be so loud so as to disturb the person nearest the set who doesn’t want to watch at all. And do they suppose that the two, or three, on each side of a room all want to watch the same thing?)
There are something like 17,000 administrative workers in the HSE.
Some of these people, the ones at the ‘top’, are the ones who get bonuses for, presumably ensuring less money is spent.
They are also the people who hire and fire in the HSE. And so don’t expect an announcement about thousands of redundancies amongst administrative staff in the HSE any day soon.
(Who was it who decided to install showers in hospital bathrooms, that have four inch steps up to them and which have doors so narrow,that many, if not most people, would struggle to get through them?)
It seems unlikely that the thousands who work in administration in the HSE have avoided illness all their lives, have managed never to spend a night in hospital or do not have relatives who have spent periods of time in the care of of our health service.
And so it is a mystery why the facilities for patients are so utterly dire in Irish hospitals. It is as if the decisions made are made by people who believe they will never darken the door of a hospital for any reason and don’t really care about those who must.
You could describe most Irish hospitals as ‘minimalist.’ But not minimalist in the sense of chic or fashionable. Minimalist in the sense of providing the minimum facilities for patients and, probably, staff.
(Who decided on the size of patients’ rooms in the new wing of St James’s Hospital? I ask because, to my certain knowledge, someone involved in planning the new building asked some of the hospital’s nurses if there was any way of improving the design of the hospital’s wards and rooms. The nurses told this man that the ‘side rooms’ were too small. He took it on board. The ‘side rooms’ in the new wing are smaller.)
It is well established, that the environment in which patients ‘live’ can help - or hinder - their recovery.
And yet, St Luke’s, arguably the country’s best known cancer hospital which at least, has the benefit of gardens, has been marked for closure.
Not a word from the highly paid Ms Harney about her plans as the good people of south Dublin and, it has to be said, beyond, dug deep into their pockets over the years to help keep Luke’s at the forefront of cancer treatment.
Ms Harney would like to move Luke’s into the already congested James’s campus, where the only grass you’re likely to see is that being smoked by some tattooed yobbo outside the front door.
(Who decides on the unchanging and unappetising menu? Do they eat it? Do they know what ordinary people eat? Do they know that sick people sometimes like to have good food?)
No doubt it’s because she’s always chauffeur driven (by a garda) that the same Ms Harney doesn’t realise the panic and fear that will sweep over unfortunate parents everywhere who have to rush their sick offspring to the proposed new children’s hospital on the Mater site.
The health service seems to be run for the convenience of those who run it.
This remains one of the few civilised countries where no attempt is being made to make wifi broadband available to patients.
It is one of the few civilised countries where no effort is being made to make the food served to patients appetising or presentable.
It is one of the few civilised countries where the old are left to rot in hospital wards designed for the sick so that books can be balanced.
It is one of the few civilised countries where there is a belief that if enough money is thrown at the health problem, it will go away.
Did I say civilised?
There are countries on this earth with little or indeed no resources, whose rulers make a better job of looking after the sick.
Ms Harney and her bureacratic pet the HSE achieve nothing, but to insult those of us who must use their service and those who work in it.
Enjoy your pay rise Mary.

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