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In support of hospital treatment in the New Zealand public health system in the twenty first century

Dorothy - 09/12/05

I used to read articles about hospital waiting lists with only mild interest. Having experienced hospital treatment since 2000 I feel real sympathy for the people who have to wait in pain or anxiety, because what they are missing is in my experience treatment of real value delivered by caring staff.

Images from earlier years in my life have been of long rows of beds, limited visiting hours, and difficulty in getting information about the treatment and the prospect of success. I grew up believing that to be treated caringly as an individual, not just a number, patients had to pay for care in a private hospital. I did so on several occasions, and sometimes my image of excellent care was matched - sometimes not.

Haematology Department
Cancer in my immune system in 2000 meant that I was referred to the Haematology Department at Christchurch Hospital where a skilled doctor prescribed chemotherapy which resulted in prompt relief from the painful symptoms and eventually a cure of the condition. Staff throughout the treatment were very caring and full information was given at each stage. Regular checks are still undertaken to check on any recurrence of the condition.

Osteoporosis
The staff at Princess Margaret Hospital provided service of a similar standard in diagnosing and treating osteoporosis.

Cardiology Department
The Cardiology Department staff were equally caring and efficient in diagnosing and treating heart problems. When I reported to Accident and Emergency with angina which did not respond to the nitro lingual spray I could not have faulted the attention I was given, and I was fortunate in being admitted to the chest pain unit in eight hours.

I remained in the ward for five days and I was so impressed by the care there also that I decided that I must write this article.

Each patient was assigned a particular nurse to supervise the care in each shift. The women and men who looked after me were pleasant, cheerful and communicative. During any procedure there was full explanation of each step and of the purpose of the treatment. Many of them were parents with responsibilities at home but they never gave a sign that they were too tired to go the extra mile to help the patients. In my experience the bell was answered very promptly during the day or night when any of us rang with angina pain.

Chaplaincy service
The men and women in the chaplaincy service are available for patients who need someone to talk to about their worries or personal problems, and a service is held in the chapel on Sunday mornings. Volunteers from churches around the city are available to take patients to the service in wheelchairs.

Patient services
In the past in private hospitals I had chosen to be in a private room, but this time I enjoyed the company of the other patients in the five-bed ward. The women were sympathetic and supportive of each other. A telephone in the room was available for inward calls and the patient in the nearest bed acted as telephonist and took the cordless phone to any patient who could not get out of bed.

A menu with ample choice was provided for patients to order their meals, and hot drinks were available in the day room. Television was available in the day room too and a phone for outward calls.

An angiogram located the cause of the angina and I was discharged soon after a stent had been fitted.

Follow-up care
The policy of the Cardiology Department is not only to offer patients treatment and follow-up after they leave hospital, but also to help them manage their own lives in such a way as to reduce the likelihood of the problem recurring.

A programme called Cardiac Rehabilitation offers patients who have been discharged six supportive weekly sessions on a Thursday afternoon.

These sessions begin with helpful talks on topics which include answers to questions about symptoms or medication, and advice on diet, sleep problems, emotional responses, giving up smoking, coping with diabetes.

The talk is followed by a half hour session of exercises which can be done standing or seated, and these have a double value. Doing the exercises at the class helps with fitness, and doing them with the cardiology physiotherapists inspires confidence. They also establish a pattern to be followed in exercises done at home - even though I don't reach a full half hour without the incentive of being in the group and exercising to music.

Afternoon tea is welcome after the exercise and the food offered is a guide to what is best for a healthy heart. Recipes are also available - uncomplicated and making minimal demands on the cook.

Improvements in health care in the twenty first century
Recently I have been thinking a lot about the difference between the health care available to me and to my mother. She suffered years of acute angina pain with no relief except anginine tablets which became less and less effective, whereas eight years ago I had relief from heart surgery, and when angina pain recurred this winter I had a stent fitted. She had sight problems for most of her life and when near the end of her life she had a cataract operation she had to lie still in hospital for two weeks. Recently I had a cataract removed and was just over two hours in hospital.

I'm sure that many of our readers have experiences to share in the forum at the end of this article. Not everyone has a positive experience in hospital. I hope that many readers like me are able to feel grateful for the care given in the public health system in the twenty first century.

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