“The first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm”
– Florence Nightingale
It was the weekend, and I was buzzing with excitement. Thursday mornings are my favourite; I usually leave early and tell the staff to go home if we don’t have any urgent work.
I stood in the hospital corridor outside the doctor’s office. It was hot and humid outside, but the central AC was working perfectly as it blew a stream of cool air on my face. I stared at the walls and the ancient architecture.
This main hospital was built in 1978 and was state of the art in its time. Although it was maintained well, I could see the wear and tear of the years on its internal façade. The seating area was full, and people could barely get by from the congestion.
An old man pushed his wife on a wheelchair as he tried avoiding a nurse hurrying by. He had a wrinkled paper in his hand and his clothes were crumpled; completing his unshaven dishevelled appearance. I wondered how long they had left on this earth. I also wondered how they were surviving these tough times as our country and region fight inflation, overpopulation, and economic pressure. The archaic paper system was slow, but nurses hustled and bustled to make things work. After a solid 40 minutes on my feet my turn was called.
I discussed my case with the doctor, and although he looked exhausted and defeated, he still cared enough to ask the critical questions. He looked like he hadn’t slept in months. He asked me what I did a few months ago when the hospital ran out of medicine. I told him that I took a road trip to Saudi Arabia and paid the hefty amount for my rare medication. I can’t miss a day otherwise my life would be in jeopardy.
Once we finished my case, I asked about his health as I stood up to say goodbye. He looked at me quizzically, unused to the reversal of roles but the question seemed to make him happy. His answer was short and to the point. “We are understaffed and overworked” was the basic reply. “See you in six months” he declared as the nurse ushered the next patient in. I went to the appointment area and it was packed to the brim with sick people. There were at least 100 people waiting. I decided to go home and send someone the next week to take my appointment for me.
When my secretary went to take my appointment, as usual, all appointments were full, and the earliest was after eight months. I sighed and remembered the old man and his wife. They didn’t have the health to go to Saudi. And they certainly didn’t have the money to buy medicines even if they did. God help them.
As a cancer survivor I must remain on some expensive medication, and thankfully the government covers my costs as a citizen. I just get my prescription refilled every six months by meeting my doctor and showing him my lab work. Medicine stocks are unreliable at best, and appointments are usually available eight months to a year later. Yes, this isn’t a typo. It could take one full year to see a doctor in many cases. You may as well get a medical degree while you wait.
Our medical infrastructure is in crisis, yet those in charge aren’t taking any significant strides to alleviate the stress on one of our country’s most critical ministries.
I wonder why there are no quick changes if the person in charge doesn’t perform adequately. I wonder why we can’t find qualified enthusiastic caring people for these top posts.
A country dies slowly, and besides photo ops and Press releases, those in charge of the ministry don’t seem to have a care in the world.