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    Volume 9 Issue 28| July9, 2010|

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Heal Thyself

Anika Hossain

Over the past few months I have been spending most of my time in hospitals, attending to sick family members. In fact, I was there so often I had almost moved into their cabins with them and was on first name basis with most of the doctors, nurses and even the janitorial staff. The friends and colleagues had started calling me “the serial attendant,” -- you get the picture. During my time spent there, I witnessed a number of things that have shattered my illusions about fancy private healthcare organisations that offer you every comfort and care asking only that you empty your bank accounts in return for their excellent services.

When my grandmother had fallen seriously ill for the first time in her 83 years, we had her admitted into what is considered one of the best private hospitals in the country. She was diagnosed with renal failure and had to be placed in the ICU for several days. We were only allowed to see her between 4pm to 6pm everyday, a time during which the waiting room, or hallway rather, just outside the ICU was packed with visitors. The first thing that struck me as being odd was that there was no seating arrangement for these folks and most were sitting on the floor or on the staircase which was a huge inconvenience, specially for the hospital staff. In fact there was no seating arrangement on any of the floors except the lobby, which made it extremely inconvenient for those attending to the patients.

Inside the ICU, we were given stained filthy, smelly gowns, which probably hadn't been laundered in over a year and rubber sandals to wear, to maintain “a sanitary, germ free environment for the patients”. The first two days, there was not a nurse in sight when we went to visit, and when we expressed our concern over this, we were told not to worry, they had cameras set up in each room to observe the patients and the hospital staff made regular rounds throughout the day to check up on them. The very next day, we found my grandmother stiff and unresponsive, eyes blank and foaming at the mouth -- she had suffered from a stroke, and not a single staff member on duty could tell us what time it happened and for how long she had been this way. The invisible camera in her room was apparently broken.

Her left side was paralysed from that day on as a result of the stroke, her speech slurred and incoherent, which happened due to a reaction to the medication she had been given. At this point, she was too weak to be moved to a different hospital much less be taken out of the country. So we filed a complaint with the hospitals administration and hoped the situation would improve. After about a week in the ICU, she was moved into a private cabin.

The day she was scheduled to be moved, we were asked to arrive at 11am because according to the hospital policy, patients in the private cabins must have an attendant with them at all times. My father and I arrived on time, and waited in the hallway outside the ICU until 2pm at which point, we were extremely annoyed and frustrated and demanded to know what was going on. After about an hour, we were told that the previous patient occupying the cabin had taken longer to check out than they had expected and that the room was being cleaned for us. At about 4pm, when we checked with them again, we were told that my grandmother had already been moved. Panicked, we rushed to her cabin and found her there, all by herself, her breathing so loud and uneven we thought she was having another stroke. We filed yet another complaint but were helpless to do anything else.

They kept her in the hospital for about two weeks after this, and during this entire time, my family members and I did everything from feeding to helping change her soiled diapers and reminding the nurses that it was time for her medication. The staff often forgot to change her bed sheets or remove her nebuliser, which she was given when she had breathing problems. A physiotherapist was appointed to work with her every morning, but a week (and several complaints to her doctors and nurses) had gone by before we actually met him. Even then, he needed a reminder from us every day to come see her and at the end of her stay we were charged for two weeks of his services.

At the end of two weeks, we were told there was not much they could do for her anymore and advised us to taker her home and keep her as comfortable as possible. Her condition gradually deteriorated and she never recovered fully from her paralysis or her speech problems. The doctor who looked after her at home was amazed to see the decline in her health since she had been taken to the hospital. My grandmother passed away a few weeks after we brought her home, but even in her last days, we were advised not to take her back to the hospital

The whole ordeal was so exhausting; we forgot to spend time with my grandmother and talk to her while she was still able to. The exorbitant amount of money we spent, all our hopes and expectations of bringing her home healthy again resulted in guilt and regret for taking her there in the first place.

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