Monday 18 April 2011

P is for Patients

I have come to dread being a patient in hospital. So awful are the scare stories (and the experiences of family and friends), that I know a lot of people, like me, would do a great deal not to be admitted to hospital.

This post was going to be a jolly one about potty-training (well, at least it usually begins with a pee), but something has happened to make me so FURIOUS, that I'm writing about this instead.

My sister, in her sixties, handicapped and wheelchair-bound (but amazingly positive and up-beat), has been admitted to hospital with a broken ankle. So far so good. But now for the bad bit. Because of her physical problems, it has been decided to keep her in for a couple of days. Fine. But now here's where common sense and caring go out of the window. Because she's in an observation ward, not a proper ward, she doesn't really exist as an in-patient, and so she doesn't get proper meals. They feed her on sandwiches, because, you see, she's not really there. Geddit? So really I suppose she's lucky to be fed at all. But two days of nothing but sandwiches isn't really much good for a shocked paient in pain, especially someone like her.

So what I want to know is, what the f*** is the sister in charge doing? Where is her duty to the well-being of her patients? When I was a sister back in the dark ages, when nurses were nurses, it was my JOB to make sure that my patients were properly fed and watered, comfortable and not in pain. What exactly are these nurses DOING? Isn't adequte nutriton covered in their new, all-graduate training?

I know this is one small instant, but she is my sister, and I cannot believe that it is beyond the wit of man (or woman) to phone the hospital caterers and ask for a hot meal or two.

So if you're fond of sandwiches and feel you would benefit from a spot of (un)healthy negelect, hospital may be the place for you. Otherwise, for goodness' sake stay away. For modern healthcare can seriously damage your, well, health.


  1. This is deplorable, I dread if I had to go into hospital in my area as I need answers to questions which I don't get.
    Your sister must feel as you do angry and unwanted.I hope all goes well.

  2. Ah, but she's not just gone into a ward which has someone in charge to see things are done correctly. She's in a system with policies and management chains and budgets and targets. The people who see she is hungry won't be the people who are able to order food for her.

  3. I have always had my food brought in. I'm a vegetarian and hospitals think that means feeding me cheap rice with a slice of mushroom and a solitary pea or a wrinkled baked potato. Or eggs when it says everywhere that I have a severe allergy to them.
    Someone has to shout for your sister. You have to demand attention in hospital. You have to be awkward to get what you want and then, if you are like me, you tell your experiences to the local paper and then see the A-board outside the newsagent's declaring 'Malvern Woman's Hospital Nightmare'.

  4. Yvonne, it's frightening, isn't it?

    Patsty, you're right. Targets and budgets (and sheer cruel stupidity) are largely to blame.

    Lynne, I'd like to make a huge fuss, but don't like to until she's out She herself isn't a complainer, so we'll just have to do it for her, when she's home.

  5. That's the scary thing, isn't it? No-one wants to complain while they are inmates as things could get worse. One lady complained about a dirty spoon. There was a large lump of something brown stuck to it. The head cook came charging into the ward demanding to know who had complained. We all hid under the bedclothes.

  6. Oh my goodness, I didn't know that some hospitals work that way. I haven't see that here. I visit the local hospitals often, and I would never know who is inpatient or who is just on observation. They both get the same meals, same rooms, same attention. I think the decision for the category is based on the medical criteria to admit a patient. In your sister's case, I can't believe she is being kept just under observation. With a fracture like that, she should be admitted. But again, healthcare systems are complicated, and there's so much of politics underneath.
    I'm really sorry you and your sister are going through such a burden. I hope things can get resolved soon.

  7. Unbelievable - yet I've heard too many other stories to doubt that this (and worse) happens.

  8. Thanks for those comments. the really frightening thing is that no-one is surprised by this kind of story any more. It's taken as par for the course, and people can invariably cap this kind of story with an even worse one.

    We all just have to concentrate hard on never getting ill!

  9. Hello Frances - I was delighted to see your excellent letter in The Times yesterday. I will be checking the on-line version to see what comments it provokes. It will have many a BSc, MSc and PhD nurse bristling, I expect. My wife, who as you know was a nurse of the past generation, agrees entirely with you. Well done.