As Tess sat on the toilet in the hospital she knew she would have to be brave to get through this.
She was a survivor, as anyone who knew the 93-year-old would tell you.
Born in Holland, she had endured being raped by first the Russians, and then the Germans, during the war.
The attacks, close together, resulted in a plethora of physical and emotional wounds. And a pregnancy.
Her kind son, now middle-aged, does not even know the nationality of his brutal father.
That was in the past and Tess had survived, though she wondered if she had the fortitude to survive her latest crisis.
Just last week she had left her nursing home bed to use the bathroom. The carer who helped her get dressed neglected to put non-slip socks on Tess and she slid, knocking into a trolley which then fell on her.
She broke her hip and ended up at Nepean Hospital, in Sydney’s western suburbs.
Now, sitting on the toilet and looking at the sign opposite which clearly stated that people at risk of falling were under no circumstances to be left alone in the bathroom, Tess was wondering if the nurses would ever come back to help her into bed.
She was sore, and cold, and tired.
It had taken two of them to get her from her bed to the little ensuite she shared with another patient.
Then they left her. She finished her business and buzzed using the button near the toilet, but no one came.
She called out for help in a feeble voice, strained with pain and fatigue. Still, no one came.
KEEPING THE SYSTEM HAPPY
A visitor to the other patient sharing her room went in search of a nurse. At the nurses’ station, the nurses were all frantically working on computers to fill in endless details about each patient, as they are required to do.
Finally, she was helped back to bed and she tried to calm her distress at being left so long with gratitude for the fact she wasn’t forced to urinate in her bed as her former roommate had.
That poor lady, also suffering from a broken hip that required surgery – it was the rehab ward after all – had waited more than 45 minutes for someone to answer her call.
By the time a nurse arrived, the woman’s bladder had given up its fight and she was lying in her own urine.
She wasn’t treated to clean sheets though, as it was the middle of the night, so a towel was placed under her and she spent the night lying there helpless as the wetness seeped through the towel, chilling the bed and chafing her skin.
SATISFYING THE SYSTEM CAN BE DEADLY
Tess assumed the nurses didn’t want to disturb her by changing the lady’s sheets but she was already disturbed – disturbed that this patient had buzzed for help and waited so long, though she had suffered a heart attack in the hospital just days before.
Too bad if she was in the throes of another heart attack.
Tess continued with her thoughts of gratitude as she remembered another patient who endured agonising pain when a paediatrician who, for some unknown reason was doing the rounds in the old people’s wards, decided to change all her pain medication. Without consulting either the patient, her GP or the pain clinic under whose care this patient had been for about 30 years.
Sounds like fiction doesn’t it? This is a true story, though in real life Tess has another name.
The necessity of satisfying the bureaucracy has resulted in no nurturing for people.
EVERYONE IS KEEPING THE SYSTEM HAPPY
This problem crosses professions but is particularly sad for those in pain and relying on the underpaid and overworked nurses for their care.
A friend of mine who used to be the head nurse at an aged care facility said her job had transformed from hands-on nursing to administration and she was forced to spend hours each shift filling in the necessary paperwork to keep the system happy. Seems no one cares about keeping people happy anymore.
This friend found herself working up to two hours of unpaid overtime each shift in order to keep up with the paperwork.
“I trained to be a nurse, not an administrator,” she said.
“I feel guilty when I don’t spend enough time with the patients.”
Most nurses, aware they are already underpaid, are not prepared to do unpaid overtime so they do their paperwork at the patients’ expense.
Another friend who is a full-time career at a nursing home said that by the time she has completed all the necessary formwork, she spends about 20 minutes of individual time with each of her 12 patients during an eight-hour-shift.
It’s not just health care patients who suffer from the insatiable needs of The System.
CARERS CAN NO LONGER DO THE JOB THEY TRAINED FOR
I saw it happen during my own work as an art therapist for people with disabilities.
When I started in the role, working for several day centres, the team leaders spent time engaging with their charges, sharing activities and having meaningful conversations.
Little by little the team leaders started spending less and less time with the clients and more time locked away in their offices, completing paperwork.
One even confided in me that she had started to hate the demands of her job that took her away from the clients.
“It’s not what I signed up for,” she said.
This is even an issue for people dealing with children, such as teachers and daycare works.
I have another friend who works in a daycare centre.
She is required to detail every moment of the children’s day – noting when they eat, sleep, speak, play, and every other activity imaginable.
She is given just an hour a week during working hours to do this, so finds herself spending hours of time at home, neglecting her family, to get the job done.
Aside from not getting paid for that extra time, she finds she no longer enjoys playing with the kids as she is always thinking about how she will write her reports and keep the system happy.
When carers are forced to do endless hours of administrative work, who is left to care for the people?
What are your thoughts?
Have a gleeful week, Tamuria.