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Multiple Personalities, ONE GOAL

August 17
11:33 2019

By: Dr. Abigail Joseph

Medical triage is a process in which patients are prioritized based on their immediate need for emergency medical attention. To break this down a little, it is the categorizing of patients based on how quickly they can become complicated and die. In medicine time is very important. Things can change in the blink of an eye or the snap of a finger, some would say. It is the medical staff’s duty to ensure that these complications are preconceived and proper measures are taken. For this reason, some patient are indeed more important than others but only because their risk of death and complications is higher.

It’s all about taking time to understand. One of the biggest deals I face, and I’m sure many healthcare workers face is the triage factor. Who goes first? You may say – well, I took a number so it’s my turn! Well yes, you do have a number in your hand and by right you should be next IF Healthcare worked on numbers alone….but it doesn’t. Medicine is a complicated field, and what makes it even more complicated is the fact that people are complicated. Many are reluctant to come to the public hospital because they had a bad experience or have heard of bad things about the hospital; for this reason we tend to delay going until we can’t bear it anymore. Cases such as a baby with fever for 3 days – or a child with diarrhea for a week, or maybe severe abdominal pain and vomiting since yesterday are all important scenarios that despite having a number system CANNOT be overlooked. The timeline of an illness is very important and while you may have been waiting in line a long time, there is a triage system that the nurse would then have to implement that determines who gets to see the doctor first. IF there wasn’t such a system in place, the baby with diarrhea can die, the child with fever can convulse and the person with abdominal pain can have an appendix rupture and die. Just looking at numbers and feeling as though you are the only one in need of medical assistance can be detrimental and very chaotic.

I find that the majority of the people that have complaints are the masses that access public institutions. Rarely do you find people complaining about private healthcare. The difference can be felt in the atmosphere, where the private institutions may be a lot cooler due to having a brand new air conditioner working as opposed to maybe some rusty fans or an old a/c unit they transferred from somewhere else. Paint peeling, the smell of cheap detergent due to having to buy in bulk as opposed to maybe the glade timer which ejects a breath of fresh air every 30 minutes. Some places may have automated doors, and a smiling receptionist who is happy, a nurse who smiles and greets you no matter how many times you enter through the doors. Some people may comment that if you visit the public hospital 3 times in a week you’d be bound to get some eyes rolling or a smothered suck teeth or hear someone grumble, “da weh dis one she come fa again?!”

True story! I couldn’t make this up even if I tried. You know it and I know it. The point is, the difference is noticeable. What I’ve gathered is: NOT everyone is treated the same, and in some places if you come one too many times for the same thing your reception depends on what mood they are in. Of course, when attending a private clinic or medical center it’s all fireworks and smiles because they are making dollars off your head. Public hospitals are different, and because of this some patients make it their purpose to start blasting on Facebook on how horrible the system is; not to come to a particular hospital because you will die there because the wait is long, and make mention of how their tax dollars are paying the staff and how they deserve better!

First of all, the tax-dollars thing is played out and a weak rebuttal statement. There are far better ways to make a statement that has an impact. The tax comment only makes staff retaliate and express how their tax could be an entire salary etc. which leads to the tearing down of each other’s character on social media. Secondly, it take two to tango. Our behavior may be a reaction to an employee that works in a toxic environment and as a result found hostile but it shouldn’t determine our reaction.

Apart from understanding triage, one of the biggest problems we have in our society is that we want private healthcare treatment from our public health system. What do I mean by that? We want what we want and we want it NOW! We know they might be short staffed, yet we’re gonna show up at midday, or we know the lab only draws blood in the mornings, but we couldn’t make it and get mad if we show up at 2pm and the lab tech is doing rounds and not at the lab, or we know visiting hours will soon be over, yet still show up and get upset when the nurse tells us to leave. Of course, if you are admitted privately it is very likely that the head nurse might not even make mention that family members should not sit on beds. The doctor would probably allow you and family members to be there during rounds; this is not so in the public hospitals. Due to the large number of patients in the ward, rounds are done in the absence of family members to protect patient privacy. We’re Belizeans and being “intafiering” is part of our nature. The minute we see someone we recognize our ears would be peeled to hear why they are admitted. Patient privacy needs to be respected.

Most of the grumbling of patients comes from not understanding how the triage system works. The rest comes from a failure to accept the public healthcare system. Taking time to understand is vital. I’ve said it in one of my previous articles. If you have a problem with one person, take note of the name and shift and take it up with their supervisor or the Ministry of Health. Making an actual report is far more effective than blasting an entire institution on Facebook. My articles always echo A MIND CHANGE. Seek first to understand. Change begins with ourselves. Change your perception and ultimately your negative reaction to things and you WILL get better results.

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