Saturday, 27 June 2009

Official stement from the Kim Jong-IL school of public relations.

Posted by: Dr Thunder.

Now, I've never been a big fan of the HSE. The Health Service Executive is essentially the arm of the Irish department of health that runs our pretty shoddy health service.

In Ireland, despite having recently had over a decade of unprecedented economic growth, we still have a third world health service.

Expensively trained Irish healthcare professionals can be found all over the world, as they make their escape from an environment which is one of the most demoralising in the developed world in which to work.

Patients still languish on trolleys in emergency departments, as they wait for one of the precious beds in our understaffed, filthy, crowded wards.

As a doctor it's frustrating to see healthcare being run into the ground by people who have lost touch with what it's like at the coalface. Talk to people who have worked in emergency departments when there's a ministerial or departmental visit. Patients who have been lying on trolleys for days are suddenly found beds. Exhausted staff are kept out of the way. The sycophants are wheeled out for a meet and greet.

Against a background of spectacular cockups, it wasn't a huge surprise when I heard the HSE will be closing down a part of their spinal surgery services in Our Lady's Hospital, Dublin. This is one of the finest children’s hospitals in the country, and provides essential services for children with scoliosis in Ireland.

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine. Its effects can be devastating. It leads, in many cases, to significant disfigurement. The curving spine can also impinge on vital internal organs, such as the kidneys, to stop them from functioning properly.

However, we are in the fortunate situation, whereby scoliosis can be treated, or at least managed. Sometimes surgery is the answer. Sometimes a cast is fitted to help the spine grow back straight.

Time is of the essence in these case. Because as the child grows, the curvature gets worse if not treated.

Because of the economic crisis, the HSE need to save money. They need to cut back on wages. So, they had a look around at potential targets.

Admin people? No.

Political advisors? No.

Government trips overseas for St Patrick's day? No

"Hey, what about the only people looking after kids with scoliosis in Ireland?". Great idea.

So, operations have been cancelled, and appointments have been binned. Casts won't be applied. Operations won't be performed. Curvatures will get worse, and these children will go from being able to live a normal life, to being a burden on the state.

Unsurprisingly, the weary Irish public have asked the HSE to explain this decision. So, they did. Oh, sweet Jesus, they did. The statement released to the press said:

"The incidence of children with scoliosis in Ireland is different to other countries, as termination of pregnancies that have a prenatal diagnosis of spina bifida, or other conditions that may develop spinal curvature, is not legal in Ireland".

Christ on a bike!

Why oh why oh why would they say this??? There is a technical point of some sort being made here. But what is it? Are they saying these children should never have been born?

Will they say to all the parents of disabled ex-premature babies "Sorry. If it wasn't for the fact that our doctors are obliged under law to treat your sick kids, then we wouldn't have these problems to deal with. So, we'll be withdrawing all future cerebral palsy care".

There some things that may be technically true, but imply a judgment of sorts. In this case, it's hard to read the statement as saying anything other than "You really shouldn't have had these kids".

There's a lot of offended parents out there.

I've seen too much of this type if nonsense to be surprised.

The HSE are thought to be better at PR than actually managing the health service. If that's the case, we're all screwed.

Dr. Thunder.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Don't worry, doc. I've brought a load of people to have a look at your sick kid. I can get more if you need them!

Posted by: Dr. Thunder.

I find it ironic that, nowadays, when I see someone keeling over, it often makes me want to go in the opposite direction. Very fast. Especially when I'm already busy as hell. But, it's fair to say that's not the case for 99% of the general public.

People love a good old collapse. Nothing draws the crowds like a wham-bam-outa-nowhere-keeling over. It's one of my pet hates. If someone is unfortunate to become unwell in a public place, they can be guaranteed one thing.....that a lot of people will have a good look.

 The people I always feel sorriest for are those who have seizures in public. Imagine it. You drop suddenly. Next thing you're waking up on the main street in on a saturday afternoon in your urine soaked trousers, with blood gushing from your bitten tongue, confused and just wanting to sleep. But that can't happen, as someone ALWAYS takes it upon themselves to make sure you don't fall asleep. Like in the movies, where if you let an injured person fall asleep they die. In about 50% of cases, the misery of the unfortunate "seizee" is compounded by someone ramming a spoon in their gob. Gotta make sure they don't swallow that tongue! Swallowing a spoon, or tooth fragments is fine. But keep that tongue firmly in their mouth, at all costs.

Just picture yourself waking up in that situation. Number one rule when dealing with a sick person in public...make sure they have some privacy.

I'm writing about this as I was in a similar situation about 2 weeks ago. I was doing an outpatients clinic, so I definitely wasn't in "emergency mode". I was strolling towards my little room, eating a hearty breakfast of one slighly over-ripe banana enroute. The only thing on my mind was whether it's dangerous to eat a banana that's more black than yellow.

And then then it happened. The 11 year old girl walking ahead of me just dropped. Her mum started shouting for help, and I looked around hoping some nice person was going to sort this kid out. Then I had that "oh yeah...I'M the doctor" moment that every medic will have had at some stage in their career.

Anyway, I made my way over to the girl an her mum, and worked out reasonably quickly that she'd just had a faint. I was on my knees beside her, just talking quietly to her, reassuring her that she was going to be fine. I didn't really notice what was going on around me. Until I turned around to see if I couild find someone who could call the emergency team. 

I was looking for one person. There were at least 15. Whoa!!! All these people just having a look at the poor kid. 

They were staring at her. She was staring at them. She looked horrified. They looked fascinated.

 So, I said "OK, guys, we're fine here, thanks". No-one budged. "Eh, could we please have some privacy here, please?". 
Two, maybe three or four, people walked away. The rest just kept staring. This girl looked so embarrassed, and I couldn't blame her.  So, I became more forceful, and stood up. I literally forced these grown adults away from her, and into the foyer. The emergency team came with a trolley, picked her up, and took her away. All was well with the world again.

So, why do people do this? I can understand the odd punter offering you their phone if you need to get help, or their first aid skills. But why just stand there and gawk? It's embarrassing for the patient, and it SHOULD be embarrassing for the person watcing. 

I remember once looking after a guy in a burger king, who'd keeled over.  The problem was so bad, that the excellent and ballsy security guard just decided to empty the store. He just threw every single solitary person out of the restaurant, and shut the big glass doors. When the incident was over, there was still a massive crowd, faces pushed up against the glass, desperate for a glance at this poor guy on the ground.

Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon? It's more of a concrete legs than a rubber neck situation, I think. 

As someone who has been part of the mob of medical students turning up unannounced to the bedside of sick patients hundreds of times, I shall continue to take the high moral ground on this issue :D

Apologies for the lack of blogging lately. I'm exceptionally busy in work and real life at the moment, and am likely to be for the next few months. So, please bear with me.

And thanks for the emails reminding me how slack I've been. You're an unforgiving people :D

Dr. Thunder.