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Hospital blues |


Hospital blues

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star
Hospital blues

Not too long ago, as my husband lay unconscious, I would whisper in his ear. Sometimes it would be serious, other times teasing. “When you cross to the other side, please help me put an end to my cancer. I read that cancer is caused by stress. Your illness caused me a lot of stress. So please help me.” Maybe that’s why I now need surgery.

Twelve days after his passing, my not-so-big C (level 2) spurted blood all over the bathroom. My son rushed me to the hospital emergency room. I had a blood test and electrocardiogram, a CT scan, tetanus vaccines, an IV with medicine to stop the blood from spurting. Put together I think I had three hours of medical attention and six hours of waiting. I could see all other patients in the emergency room probably experienced the same thing. I wondered why.

My longest wait was for the CT scan. I was wheeled in and parked in front of the TV set without sound and without subtitles. Since I cannot read lips, I looked around. Some hospital people came out from the x-ray rooms drinking softdrinks or eating sandwiches, biscuits or chips. Not very helpful for patients like me who hadn’t had breakfast or lunch. I waited there for over an hour. There was a man from the Middle East with two young boys waiting for another who was having a CT Scan. There was a doctor pacing anxiously between the radiation room then out on his cell phone to ask questions like “Why? Who said that?”

When my turn came the nurse told me, “Huminga ng malalim.” In English: “Breathe deeply.” Then “Higpit,” which I didn’t fully understand. Maybe it meant “Hold your breath” but literally meant “tight.” I told her to please command in English so I could better understand. Maybe that statement raised my bill.

I passed the plain CT scan easily. But when they tried to get the dye into my IV, it was blocked. They called a nurse to unblock it. Another wait before a nurse came. She unblocked it. When they put in the dye, it was blocked again. Another long wait. The nurse came again showing them two syringes she had used to unblock. Whatever was in them had flowed. They tried twice again, each time more painful than the last. Then I lost it and said, “No more. It’s painful. You’ve tried three times. I’m walking out of here.” I could walk but they insisted on putting me in a wheelchair and pushing me out to wait some more for pick-up.

It was already close to 7 p.m. Now we had to wait for another nurse to do the billing and send it to the Billing Section. We wait in what looks like a curtained booth. My neighbor needed a CT scan but he had gone to the bathroom, which apparently he wasn’t supposed to do. The nurse insisted she had told him. He insisted she had not. I believed him. The lady who was waiting in bed for a CT scan all afternoon — I saw her when I came in — was finally wheeled out.

We waited patiently but after an hour I told my son to demand the bill. The nurse said, “Yes, here it is on top of the papers. You will have it soon. The wheelchair will come for you as soon as it’s ready.” We waited for almost another hour. By this time I had gotten totally fed up. I looked out of the curtain and saw the man who wheeled me chatting amiably with another man. I told my son, “Let’s walk out of here. We have waited too long.”

We walked to the Billing Section just as the person manning it sat down and gave me the bill for more than 40K. I almost died. I paid that much for three hours of attention and six hours of waiting? Surely there is something wrong here.

This hospital needs a professional manager to manage the organizing, staffing and training of emergency room personnel with attention to the patients who come in. They are all suffering and each of them feels ignored. Doctors are scientists. They do not know how to manage people well. Sure, there are problems — quality of people hired, most graduates go abroad, uneven stream of patients coming in. These are all challenges for professional managers who can come up with good solutions for problems. I think hospital management needs to find and hire them. You don’t want patients — of all people — to leave your hospital with an evil taste of your service, do you? By the way, my last job was president of a company so I know whereof I speak. Don’t hire me. I’m turning 80 soon.

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