Across Australia, hundreds of once-thriving hospitals crumble and decay, abandoned or underfunded while Super Hospitals are built to fail.
What happened to the amazing country doctors that once dotted this proud nation? Most of them have passed on while eager pharma representatives are trained in their place. What does the fact that medical students are now taught 'big pharma is god' from day one, have to do with our hospital crisis?
As a former nurse who has experience in rural and big hospitals, in remote area (outback) nursing and more recently private practice, I can answer that with one word.
In recent months I had the misfortune of presenting at ER with family members and being absolutely horrified at what I saw -
Note-takers watching without reaction as patients were bleeding out in front of them, calmly taking notes to put down and leave until someone came along hours later to a near comatose patient.
Doctors standing around discussing the case, unsure what to do. Walk away, only come back when patient's family demands it.
Coffee given to a kidney failure patient, yet water restricted.
A small piece of styrofoam lodged in a toddler's ear - simple extraction was overlooked in place of shoving at it with a probe, which resulted in the offending piece being pushed up against the eardrum, requiring surgery. Referred to a super hospital for the surgery. SIX weeks pass with no contact from this super hospital. Mother calls hospital for appointment, comes in and is blamed for the toddler's plight - actually accused of causing the issue as staff refused to believe a doctor would do such a thing. Sent home. Another appointment is scheduled weeks later. By then, the offending piece is lodged and adhered to the eardrum. General anaesthetic is required for something that I personally took care of many times in small hospitals during my nursing career.
Referring for tests, then another appointment back at the doctor, then a visit to a hospital for more tests, then another referral to a physician for advice on whether to operate, then another appointment back at a clinic to determine what the other physician advised. No communication between each of the groups involved.
One patient suffering a large wound to his hand, bleeding out over the floor. Nurses standing around discussing the weekend, while doctors walked past. Patient loses consciousness, so another visitor calls out for assistance. Patient had been waiting 2 hours to be seen and once called into triage had been abandoned, for when someone was not 'busy' enough to see him. Massive blood loss and exposure of the wound. First thing the attending doctor says? 'Have you had a tetanus vaccination recently?' Before even the most basic first aid was utilised.
When did Australia become the US and only start caring for private patients?
Simply put, this would not have happened in a smaller hospital. All hands would be on deck. Different wards would actually communicate with each other. All testing and assessments could be done in one area in a short time. No referring or sending elsewhere for what could be done on site. If surgery was needed, they would be booked in for the following day. If an emergency, surgical wards would be opened on the spot.
A real-case example from my memory reads something like this: a young lady came to ER complaining of abdominal pains. Examined by a nurse, doctor called as we suspected an ectopic pregnancy. While doctor was on his way, bloods were taken down to pathology just to rule out other issues. An ultrasound was performed, upon which we noticed an ovarian swelling. Doctor determines it is a ruptured ectopic, theatre opened in next wing after hours, surgical team available immediately. Patient recovering back on ward 2 hours after she first presented. Imagine the scenario today in a super hospital; she would most likely be referred somewhere else, then we would hear about it on the news as yet another reason for a new superdrug or vaccine.
I recently also visited a once-thriving smaller hospital for the purposes of a support person at pathology. All maternity cases sent to big hospitals to be swallowed up into the system. As someone who has had babies in both small and large hospitals, I know which one I would take! By a nurse's own admission, patients are left until an emergency situation 'because we know how to deal with emergencies' - instead of simple, basic care to help things along naturally.
Most small hospitals are now mostly closed up and used for storage, with all good equipment stripped and sent to super hospitals. Few trained staff remain employed and patients are usually permanent care/nursing home residents. Some become nursing posts which, due to poor funding and lost equipment are a stomping ground for failure and tragedy - which is often used by media to point out just why we need super hospitals. Meanwhile millions are sunk into TV advertising Ronald McDonald House and Flying Doctor and private health insurance to make sure regional populations have access to super hospitals. Around and around we go.
I was once offered the chance to open a consulting room at a small hospital. I missed the opportunity but often wonder what would happen in such a scenario -
A round-table board of physicians as well as hospital board - so doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and services, natural health practitioners.
A choice of health care
A few real life cases of combining a multi modality integrative care in small hospitals include:
Patient presented with meningitis symptoms. Non reactive to antibiotics so homeopathics and chiropractic brought in - against hospital wishes but patient's mother demanded it and signed a waiver to take responsibility. Patient recovered in a matter of days with no long term ill effects. Hearing of the number of deaths in hospitals from meningitis, you can only wonder why we are beating the same old drum over and over again instead of playing it differently!
Pregnant woman goes into labour. Acupuncturist/homeopath called to meet her there. Needles inserted and midwives monitor the woman who is otherwise left alone to do things her way. Once she is determined to be close to delivery, doctor is notified. Pain is minimal thanks to the acupuncture anaesthesia and after a short examination, doctor leaves delivery suite to check on things elsewhere. Midwives deliver healthy baby, doctor returns to suture small tearing. Acupuncturist/homeopath called in each day to provide post partum assistance and mother and baby return home without incident. The best of both worlds.
There are literally millions of possible case studies showing what happens when integration does not happen; it occurs every single day in every single super hospital. Example:
Comatose patient given hours to live. Homeopath/acupuncturist called in, where reflexology and acupressure is taught to nursing staff and family, to be administered 2nd hourly, around the clock. Iris markings signified pancreatic, liver, kidney and brain toxicity (patient was a long term type II diabetic and recovered alcoholic, however practitioner was not informed of this until after examining the patient). She had not walked for 6 months previously and her abdomen was distended to the point of a full gestation pregnancy (she was in her 60s). Herbal medicine and homeopathic remedy given while staff were instructed to keep IV line open as she was not eating or drinking. Two contraindicated medications were being given so these were stopped immediately. A heavy standard western diet plan was changed to plant based and clear liquids only. Patient was awake and alert within 2 hours, ambulating within 24 hours. Her abdomen was flat and she was talking and had begun eating. She was scheduled for discharge by the 7th day. A GP who was not welcoming of integration or alternatives demanded the medications be recommenced. She became violent and began hallucinating, unable to recognise family members. She declined back into comatose state within 24 hours and died from seizures on the 8th day. The alternative practitioner was blamed, for 'giving false hope. I said she was going to die.'
Another excuse is the lack of interest of doctors to go to rural areas. They actually think money and houses and cars and other kickbacks are enough. What about properly equipped hospitals? What about not being tied to monthly drug flogging quotas? What about actually being able to practice medicine instead of answering to suits and ties in the city? What about getting allied health professionals in?
I can happily say (and I am not the only one) if I was offered a fraction of the incentives doctors are offered to work in the country as a homeopath/acupuncturist, I would not need to be asked twice! Instead, I must pay for my own study, then pay to set up my own clinic, while my patients must pay out of pocket for my services, and my prescriptions are not subsidised. Even though my case success rate is well over the paltry 35% accepted rate in medicine.
One of the amazing clinicians I studied with, saw up to 100 cases a day in his home country - in a small rural clinical hospital. All cases were treated free. No super hospitals, no multi million dollar funding or equipment.
The excuse of funding is always thrown in. The health system/crisis costs tax payers multi-billions each year. If a fraction of this was put into running small hospitals, and actually funding allied health professionals to do their job, this would save billions. But...
It would reduce costs as people would not need to spend on travel and lost work hours, and health actually improved instead of this created dependency - therefore, it would reduce kickbacks and big pharma coffers.
Therein lies the real problem... No one has the guts or interest to do it for the people.