Thursday, 13 November 2008

Despondency and depression at the thought of the NHS

I really have a fear of getting ill and growing old in this country. The thought of ending up in some 'care' home in a grey turning off a motorway, shoved into a wheelchair to stare through a dirty window at a dirty, sodden, gloomy rainswept car park, fills me with dread. However, what is more horrendous is the thought of getting ill and being at the mercy of the NHS and even the private sector.

I noted in the weekend paper how Richard Branson revealed that he wouldn't allow his father to be operated on in an NHS hospital as he couldn't find one that wasn't riddled with MRSA. I'm not surprised. Nine years ago my father-in-law went into his local hospital in the south of England for an excrutiating backache. Four weeks later he was dead. He'd caught the deadly bug. It was only because the medical staff were presented with four professionals - his children - three of whom were solicitors, that they tried everything, they said, to save him. I balked at the tracheotomy. What was the point, I pondered, when he was obviously going to die in any event?

Last year, when Zach was taken into the local hospital, in extremis, unable to walk because of some mysterious illness where he had developed a ghastly rash over his legs and they had swollen so badly that he was in excrutiating pain, he was left in A&E in a wheelchair for four hours. This was after I had rushed him to hospital. On arrival I looked for a porter. None was to be found. I dashed into the hospital, searching for a wheelchair. There were none. This was a hospital! Finally, someone saw me desperately seeking help. They managed to find a wheelchair that was being used to house magazines - and this while the traffic warden was harrassing me to move my car.

So we stayed in A&E those hours until he was seen and I was almost completely wrecked at this stage - mania, drugs and now a mysterious illness had rendered me to the brink of my own breakdown. Zach was taken to a single room on another floor. There was the possibility that it was something highly contageous that he may have caught while travelling. The nurses wore plastic aprons and covered their mouths. The young doctor who examined Zach wore no coat or gloves. He carried a chart that he continued to fill in while making his exam. When he came out of the room (I had been watching him from behind the glass), he came over to me to shake my hand. He hadn't even washed his hands. Is it surprising, then, that MRSA is so prevalent in our hospitals when even the doctors don't even wash their hands after examining patients? Was this a one-off? I wonder. Richard Branson is surely right in his assessment but I don't even think it's better in the private sector here.

For a comparison, consider this: Yesterday afternoon my daughter had to go into the A&E department of a large hospital in Tel Aviv where she now lives. She'd been suffering terrible stomach cramps and felt simply awful. On admission they examined her (the doctors wear scrubs and coats and gloves). They took bloodwork immediately and x-rays. They told her that they wouldn't let her go until they diagnosed what was wrong. Within fifteen minutes she had the blood test results; within the same time the x-rays. They diagnosed what was wrong and, after having put things right, she was able to leave. The hospital was new, clean, bright and airy. It was efficient and even though she had to wait for over an hour to see someone, she had faith that they would be able to help. I have no faith here. It makes me despondent and depressed.


nicola said...

For every ying there's a yang. A friend of mine has just had a truly terrible experience with her elderly father being taken ill in Tel Aviv. Quite the opposite from what you describe here. I guess there's an element of luck in all of this too.

Ros Morris said...

I think that what was more to the point with J was that she didn't have to spend the entire day in A&E before someone saw her and then, having had all the tests done, the results were there almost immediately! There's always going to be someone who has the reverse experience. I'm just pleased that, for the first time user, their health system worked!