Recently we experienced the state of our public health system through the hospital admission of an elderly patient.
While we were amazed by the people we encountered from the administration staff, to the doctors and nurses, it is patently obvious our public hospitals are badly in need of more resources.
First, we were given an hour and a half to get an elderly patient suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s, assessed as a high-level aged care patient by a federal government agency, from home to the hospital. In what universe does anyone think that’s appropriate … in mid-afternoon Sydney traffic, just as school pickups begin around town?!
We don’t blame the administration staff. They were incredibly helpful on arrival, processing the administrative aspects of the admission promptly. But, the way they appear to be forced to manage hospital beds, judging by the impractically short notice of availability, it is clear there is an acute shortage, resulting in serious inconveniences to elderly, and seriously ill patients, putting them at further potential risks.
After a bed was allocated we waited close to five hours for a doctor to arrive, perform an examination and complete the admission process. We learned there was only one junior doctor on duty, and it fell upon her that afternoon and evening to process all the admissions.
However, we can’t speak highly enough of the hospital staff we encountered! The nursing staff were friendly and professional and went out of their way to keep us informed and comfortable.
The partner of the elderly patient also has a range of health conditions, and being forced to wait around for five hours was not helpful. As they were rushed out of the house earlier in the afternoon on very short notice from the hospital, they forgot to grab something warm for a cooler spring evening.
As the afternoon turned into night we had to ask for blankets, and had to go foraging for food and drinks in a hospital where everything was shut. We were left eating bags of chips and drinking Coke out of coin operated wending machines – there is a nutritional irony being forced into a junk food diet at a hospital.
The junior doctor was very apologetic when she finally arrived. She informed us she was the only one on duty and had to process all the admissions singlehandedly, and she still had more to go. At this point we were also becoming concerned over regular medications which were now seriously overdue given the length of the wait.
However, the hospital staff was always a step ahead of us, even if they appear to be serving the public with one hand tied behind their back, caused by the lack of proper government funding.
The junior doctor was professional, efficient, warm and a pleasure to meet. She was wonderful with both elderly people, and built an instant rapport with her patient. It was a delight to watch as she worked her magic with a smile, despite the pressure she was clearly under.
We didn’t quite appreciate the dire state of our public health system until this personal experience. We suspect, most members of the public are like us and have no idea just how under resourced our public hospitals are until one day they find themselves sitting on a hard plastic chair for five hours hoping to see a doctor. Given the amount of money wasted by our politicians this is a simply unacceptable state of affairs.
We can’t believe there is ever an argument about further funding for public health or whether public hospital staff should get a pay rise, when they ask for their usually modest increases, and the pettiness on the part of the government that usually ensues.
We suggest less helicopter rides, and less ‘study trips’ to the south of France and Geneva for our politicians, and more money for public infrastructure and services …