Updated: May 18, 2020
Across Australia, hundreds of once-thriving hospitals crumble and decay, abandoned or underfunded while Super Hospitals are built to fail. What happened to the amazingly skilled 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 or our health 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 of new super-hospitals 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 metro 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