An Opening Ceremony, an Opening Ceremony! My Kingdom for an Opening Ceremony!
Ministerial Lesson No.1:
When a service as fundamental and critical as health care is massively under-funded divert funds into Sporting Games.
As any person in health care can tell you, (and quite a few million from other areas), we need more hospitals. We are desperate to reduce patient to nurse/doctor ratios, increase provision of health services and reduce waiting times for non-elective surgery (like repairing that pesky blocked artery to the heart). But instead we get another sporting games. Another multi-million dollar event full of fireworks and spectacle and wimsical ducks and opportunities for child stars.
But we’re not the first to do it are we? The Ancient Roman Emperor Ceseare himself recommended games to distract the people when taxes were too high and grain yields too low. Keep them amused, divert attention from what is lacking. Prevent uprising and discontent with sporting games.
Oh no, I hear you say. Another boring account of the underfunded health sector. Full of talk of HMOs and economic this and that and… who can be bothered. Well, let me put it another way…
Interview One: My name is Dr Halaan. I’m an obstetrician. I didn’t train to be a doctor in Australia where the medical students study for 6 years and then have a supervised year as an intern and then another as a resident. I trained overseas. I trained for 3 years and then only worked in a restricted area of medicine. Now I have passed an exam here and because Australia has desperate shortages in my area at the moment, I am allowed to work as a supervised Doctor. I’ve been working here six months and I haven’t yet met my supervisor. My English is not very good but I try my best and the back breaking schedules they have given me mean I am trying to see 60 patients a day. There is such a backlog of patients that some women deliver before I can get to review them. I start work at 5:30am and finish at 10:30pm. I get 30 minutes for lunch at about 3:00pm if I am lucky. I have worked seven days a week for the last six months but they tell me they have advertised for help. I try very hard for the patients but the pressure is enormous. Lately I have noticed I have stopped washing my hands between patients. I don’t know when it started. I used to be so conscientious. Sometimes the paperwork doesn’t get done. The other day I realised after injecting Lignocaine that I didn’t check the dose. I hate this job now. As soon as I can I’ll be getting out.
Interview Two: I’d rather not mention my name. I am a nurse and without fail I have a minimum of six patients under my care at any one time, even in the private hospital where I work, and patients can wait for hours for me to answer their call. Can you imagine hours sat in your own vomit/excrement/urine? Unable to move due to recent surgery, an intravenous line and a sizzling temperature of 40 degrees and pneumonia raging inside you. Can you imagine being 97 years old? Being confused, frustrated and frightened and hooked up to machines with bells ringing in a strange place where noone comes to help. I don’t need to imagine it. I see it every day and it breaks my heart.
So to all the politicians of this fair country I say, bring on the Games! Ignore the plight of the health sector while you are fit and able.Provide us with distractions and easy psuedo-solutions. In years to come when you need an operation for your failing kidney or heart or whatever, I hope I get to visit you in hospital. I hope I get to wait with you as you push the button for the nurse and noone comes and your bladder is full to bursting. I hope as the urine trickles down your leg and saturates your bed the acidic sting eats away at your flesh. I hope the five other patients in the room smell your mess and wrinkle up their nose at you. I hope the microbes left on your skin from where the Doctor examined you in such a hurry are opportunistic and colonize. I know they will make you itch. I know they will make you burn. I know they can travel up your penis to your bladder and from there it’s a short hop to your kidneys. And the temperature and the dementia they cause will be treated … eventually. But before then, I hope you sweat. I hope you itch and burn and are humiliated as the nurses wash you down. I hope the antiseptic stings. And your grandchildren say to their parents, poo why does grandpa stink? And then I hope you remember. I hope in your discomfort you cast your mind back and remember. Remember when you made the choice to spend one billion dollars of money earned by the hard labour of the Australian tax payer for the benefit of all on two weeks of sports. Money enough to pay for more hospitals, more doctors and more nurses for scores of years. I hope I am your witness, because I know in truth what you would say: it wasn’t worth it.
Essays, (nay rants!)