Re: Patient Mistreatment
On July 20th, 2017, my mother and I went to the Orthopedic Ward on her surgeon’s request to remove the pin from her broken ankle. We registered at the Outpatient Ward and the Dr. asked us to go up to the Orthopedic Ward so he could do this short, easy procedure. Once there, the nurses admitted my mother as if she were going to stay overnight or was about to undergo a serious surgery. It made us both nervous, because the nurses kept saying there could be general anaesthetic or even an epidural.
We overlooked this as part of their job, but questioned the need for it because it was a matter of a small incision and topical anesthetic, a procedure that takes 20 minutes to half an hour as we understood it. The nurses justified the extensive patient intake – they even requested blood tests – as a process that is done in every case. In our opinion it was not major surgery so the paperwork could have been facilitated, but this is a minor point compared to what happened next.
As my mother stayed in the hospital for several days after she broke her leg, the nurses there knew her history of vulvar cancer and the discomfort caused by sitting for long periods. She was waiting in the corridor of the ward for four-and-a-half hours, sitting in a wheelchair. Due to the long and difficult time she had with her radiotherapy and multiple plastic surgeries, this was unacceptable. The sister on duty said that she had offered a bed to my mother but it had been refused. When I asked my mother why she refused, she said it was because the place is depressing and she was too anxious to lie down there.
A lot of it has to do with the nurse’s demeanor. They are not friendly. They are not reassuring. They barely bother to look you in the eye when conversing. For health caretakers, they hardly have the patience or right attitude to make a patient feel comfortable. A cancer patient should have priority, in my opinion, because of the extreme duress they experience. When I suggested this to the sister, she dismissed it by saying that other patients have it worse. But this is not a competition about suffering. It is about respecting each patient and helping them according to their particular needs. Above all, it is about being compassionate and understanding.
To complete the picture that the nurses (at least on that particular day) were acting de-sensitised, callous and uncompassionate, I asked one of the nurses – I believe the young lady’s name is Maria – where the doctor was so we could get some idea of how long the wait was going to be. She became rude and said: “I am not the doctor’s secretary!” I replied that I don’t work there so I wouldn’t know where he might be, and could she find him for us. Instead of doing her job and saying ‘yes, I will do my best to find him or page him’, she simply repeated that she is not the doctor’s secretary.
At this point, my mother said she had to leave immediately otherwise she didn’t know what she would do! She was pushed to that extreme – a cancer patient who deserves better treatment and respect.
I took her home late in the afternoon, having spent most of the day wasting time waiting around for medical attention. We then went to a private hospital where the doctor took 20 minutes to remove the screw – without extensive paperwork to admit her. The charge was 300 Euros. Money we can ill afford given the last 2.5 years of cancer treatments and surgeries and endless medical costs to support my mother through her ordeal. It is not just about the medical costs, but my loss of income because each time we went to the General Hospital it was at least a three-hour wait.
The sister informed me that the correct processes were not followed, and that there were nine patients before my mother, so she should have prepared to spend the night – for a very minor outpatient procedure. I repeated to her that the doctor himself asked us to come in because he was on call that day. The sister called me after we arrived home, to say that the doctor was ready for the procedure. It was too late by then, because my mother was too disappointed and had no intention of ever returning to the place.
The attitude was clear: you are getting medical attention for free and you’ll take what you’re given. This is very far from the facts. The public medical system is supported by the tax payers, who work hard to fund the state. Respect and efficiency is the minimum that could be returned. In fact, the nurses and doctors working in the General Hospital should be grateful that their well-paid jobs have funds from public money. There are many unemployed medical professionals who would appreciate their jobs and treat patients well.
Dear Sirs, I know that in your profession you see a lot on a daily basis, and someone should walk in your shoes for a mile before they criticise. I would recommend sensitivity training for your medical professionals and an efficiency survey of your entire hospital procedures to make things easier for the patients. I would recommend that the entire staff be told that patients come first. I’d recommend team building and strong hands-on management to prevent things like this from happening. We were not the only people complaining about the lack of organisation.
I spent my whole day away from my work to help my mother, whom I love dearly. I’m not complaining about this, I just think things could be run better to respect people’s time and money. I challenge you to make this happen. I challenge you to love your jobs as much as you love your families. To be as passionate about getting people better as you are about ensuring your jobs.
Because if it is up to the taxpayers, they want an efficient, compassionate service from their healthcare providers. So that their families can have better health.
Thank you for your time. Copies of this letter will be sent to my mother’s oncologists.