A little narrative:
Recently, a young woman from Eastern Europe who lives in UK, rushed her heavily pregnant sister to hospital,
Adhering to the letter of their Covid 19 regulations the hospital staff insisted the pregnant sister be separated from her sibling, who was seated on a chair in the ward corridor – a chair she occupied for the next four hours. An examination of her heavily-pregnant sister was obviously needed, but the staff on duty refused to proceed until an interpreter had been summoned, because she spoke very little English.
They refused, inexplicably, to fit her sister (whose English is impeccable) with protective clothing and invite her to interpret. Instead, they insisted upon sending for an interpreter, a man, living in a town 98 miles away, who took more than three hours to arrive.
The interpreter was lacking in medical knowledge, and extremely embarrassed by the bedside position in which he found himself. His input was limited to a few sentences, and he frequently felt the need to turn his back on the patient!
It isn’t impossible to extract some humor from that situation, as long as you, a taxpayer, are happy to ignore the discomfort to which this poor woman was subjected over a protracted period, the occupation of staff and bed, and the cost of the interpreter, together with his travel expenses for 186 miles, when more capable help was freely available just yards away.
In legal parlance this tale is hearsay, anecdotal, although I see no reason to disbelieve it. There are many such examples of profligacy and waste, yet because whistle-blowing is effectively gagged we rarely have the chance to hear an insider’s view. Instead we are constantly fed the line that the Health Service is short of money, that more support is needed, more nurses, more doctors, more this, more that. It takes emergence of these tales from a patient’s perspective to suggest the problems run much deeper. Deeper, even, than the Health Service itself.
I can see how easily common sense might have prevailed, were it other than a Sunday night, when a senior person might not have been present. Perhaps they might have overruled the strict ‘letter-of-the-law’ position that prohibited employment of the English-speaking sister – or perhaps not.
Perhaps everyone in the National Health Service has to tread upon eggshells because there is a phalanx of ambulance-chasing lawyers and journalists waiting in the wings to pounce upon anything that could be made to look like malpractice; ready to sue for millions and campaign across all the mainstream media, if the tiniest chink in the armour of accepted practice is exposed.
This is a malady that afflicts us all. Not just in the National Health Service, but the Police Force and any one of a list of organisations where contact with the general public is involved.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with protecting people’s rights, or guarding against criminal malpractice, but society has become so litigious everyone is afraid to apply common sense, and the cost to us all in terms of waste and duplication is huge. A jet stream of negativity seeks out every crack in the casement, every cranny in the conversation so an action that is not specified by a rule book, a word not in the prepared script can send the unwary tumbling from their career and leave them personally unprotected.
We are knee-deep in poorly-drafted legislation that can be re-interpreted or simply misused in ways that, in the end, offer protection for nobody. The effect has rather been a tendency to drive the real issues underground.
Personally, I have experienced both good and bad from the National Health Service in the UK. I would not belittle the wonderful care I have received, but nor should I deny the duplicated work and extravagant use of resources – they are enough to persuade me that money itself is not the cure-all the Service would have us believe.
Released finally from her treatment, the pregnant lady concerned has vowed she will ‘never return to that hospital’ as she believes medical care was better in her home country. In the meantime, she has vowed to have her baby at home!
It is an ill wind that blows no-one any good. I’ve said this before, but maybe Covid, with its gift for forcing us to re-examine all of our basic structures, might provide a fresh start?
Picture Credit: Stocksnap from Pixabay