Friday, 7 January 2011

When Technology Invades

2010 was the year of visiting hospitals and it seems 2011 is going to be no different. Mid 2010 “Little Bitch” (aka Tiff, my younger sister) developed a nasty kidney infection and ended up on a drip. After it was discovered Dad has Myeloma, in combating this rather nasty incurable but containable cancer, trips to the hospital became a norm for him. As his immune system is so low, last year he ended up in hospital several times with a whole array of pretty unpleasant ailments. Then just before Christmas a bad fall down the stairs backwards saw my Nan in hospital. I am pretty certain I had never had so many trips to the hospital in one year.

Just before Christmas the “Bitch” had a sudden relapse and was threatened with celebrating a “Happy Christmas” back on a drip but with some persuasion was allowed to return home. Just after Christmas, seemingly better she returned to work before her sick note had expired and within a few days wound up back in hospital with an infection, E. coli (yes!) and an abscess on her Kidney so I began 2011 with yet another hospital visit – something that rather depressingly seems to increase as you get older.

I recently heard about a school that uses online canteen accounts and scans finger prints rather than using good old fashioned cash or even a canteen swipe card. Gone are the days of children being bullied for their dinner money as fingerprint swiping heralds the arrival of the child gangster lopping off their peers' digits left, right and centre.

Visiting “Little Bitch” at University College Hospital in the last week, introduced me to similarly bizarre newfangled hospital workings. In all my recent hospital visits I have never come across patients having to pay to watch TV but in this establishment, “Little Bitch” was spending like crazy. In order to watch TV or use the Internet (yes, the hospital is that high-tech!), she had to purchase a card and regularly put money on it - we're not talking a full array of satellite channels or movie channels but just regular TV in all its glory.

In a similarly bizarre move, all out-going phone calls to land lines are free for patients. Despite being in a ward with a woman unable to press the assistance button who continuously cried out “ 'Scuse me” to little sis, each patient had their own phone. Every time I rang her I had the pleasure of listening to a lengthy answering machine message telling me that I may have received a missed call from the number, kindly explaining who this missed call might have been from and helpfully suggesting that I donate TV credit. Sis spent each TV viewing day living by the hour, awaiting updated news of her condition before putting more money on the card, unsure what would happen to any unspent credit.

Hearing this reminded me of London Underground and all those people trying to sell on one day travel cards near the end of the day. Recently returning from one of my Leeds-London stints, in Victoria Coach Station these very same people were desperately trying to sell travel cards at 10.30 at night for more than the average single fair when it's most likely purchasing such a thing is pretty pointless. I now can't help imagining patients outside the University College Hospital trying to sell on their TV “credit cards”. Hospitals are such strange places such a sight probably wouldn't seem out-of-the-ordinary and certainly not in London.

I'm always amazed by the lack of communication that seems to occur between medical staff. Sure I know that these days patients are often allocated “teams” to look after them but when the patient is being asked to fill in what they've been told for the next doctor and given two enormous bags of almost identical drugs surely there's something wrong. During one of my dad's hospital stints a slip up almost saw him being prescribed a lethal dose – it was only after he noticed the mistake and rang his consultant that the error was rectified. Both my dad and sister have been forgotten by staff - left without liquid for hours on end and abandoned to a hallway already feeling nauseous.

I have a few NHS employed friends (you know who you are) who I know do a great job but clearly not everyone out there is as on the ball. What's happened to communication and basic admin? I have only ever been in hospital twice and both were flying visits for stitches so I can only hope that I manage to remain the one family member in 2011 who continues to act as visitor.

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