A 'Pas de Deux' – me and the Queensland State Health System…

By Staff Writer: Harvey Fewings.


Apart from health professionals, nobody really wants to go to a hospital – any hospital! People go to hospitals because they are not well and need medical help; in a general sense!

But, from time to time, as life unfolds, your biology tells you that you have a problem and it must be fixed…no hesitation, no equivocation.

And. Recently that was me!

Facing reality is brutal and looking into the mouth of the dragon is confronting; all humans must do it at some point, not because they want to, but because they have to…

More than enough times have I made the point in this column, that the truth can be hidden, can be denied but it is always the truth and it will always be there!

Thus, I became involved in the Queensland State Health system and the venue was the Sunshine Coast University State Hospital.

State hospitals, simply by their existence, are large, fizzing bureaucracies and Sunshine Coast University State Hospital was no exception.

Bureaucracies create tensions and levels of human activity; because of my curiosity about human activity and because I had heard that Queensland's health system was in crisis I had my antennae fully extended by the time I became fully engaged with the process of fixing my medical situation.

I was not a judge, I was a part of the process; antennae twitching, I noticed that the Hospital was new and superbly appointed, entry foyers were full of people coming and going, smiling as they did so!

Clearly marked volunteers were present right from the beginning and somewhere, in the background, a grand piano was playing. Seriously!

Complex human activity revolves around the requirements of a large hospital, but the first impression I gained was one of happy people, wanting to assist others and all working in a clean and sparkling environment.

My confidence flowed upward – a little.

A few hours later, after some complex surgery, conducted by female surgeons/magicians, I woke in a room where I was attached to cannulas, drains, drips, and machines which produced, in concert with a series of beeps, a series of continuous numbers which kept many observers busy for some time…but, at least they always thought the “ numbers were good!”

This is the time when you can see the system at work.

As always, it is those who do the essential work that makes the place work – the cleaners and hygiene workers in this Hospital were just brilliant – non-stop cleaning and spraying, mopping, sweeping, chasing down bits of fluff, lumps of this and that and fearlessly attacking showers and bathrooms where normally cautious people would hesitate to enter…all the time, smiling, happy…they flooded the surgical wards with infectious enthusiasm.

And then, the foodies. They come bringing humungous wheeled machines with food, tea, coffee, apples, mandarins, whatever, they had it or they would get it. They too, smiled, they smiled coming and going, day and night and those smiles did more good to anxious patients than most of them will ever know!

It is difficult to keep smiling whilst delivering ice cream scoops of mashed Brussel sprouts, night after night, but they did!

That is the essentials. The cleaners and the foodies, if those elements of the place worked, happily and enthusiastically, then the rest of the operation was usually going to be alright.

I lay there, listening to my numbers beep their way through the night and I questioned…” So what is the problem with the Queensland Health system? “

This place, Sunshine Coast University Public Hospital was just bloody brilliant.

And then; there are the angels of the wards.

They wear dark blue, they manage large, mobile computer terminals, whose screens hold secrets only those blue-clad angels can interpret.

They come, they go, day and night, they are there to make you better, to monitor your vital signs, to harass you if needed, to calm you when anxiety takes over and to let you know that you are the only patient in the place and that everything they do is for you!

Overstated a bit? Probably. But nurses are the front line of health systems across the world and Queensland Health has plenty of very, very, good ones.

Each day, at regular intervals, surgeons arrive with their teams of Registrars as they follow up their surgical procedures. Calm, in control, quiet commands given and accepted, fiercely intelligent eyes roam across the screen with your numbers displayed and the surgical wounds they have put on your body to deal with the problems that brought you to this place, they exude confidence and competence and then they move on…

Eventually, you can go home and begin the business of repairing yourself, adjusting to the new reality of who you are and what happened to you.

I note the media hysteria rolls on, Queensland Health in crisis, ambulances ramped up beside casualty wards, and they are!

Politicians shouting, pointing. Media nonces smiling, speaking manglish to cameras as they predict outcomes they know nothing about.

And, I came to the following conclusion:

Once you are in the Queensland Health system, the professionals in that system make it work superbly, no fuss, no bother, just get the job done and move on to the next problem. The hospital I have spoken about is impressive, the volunteers, the grand pianos, the smiling car park police – all of it – is about as good as you can get in Western democratic health systems.

The health professionals, all of them, whatever their task make it work because they want it to work.

The problem, and it is a very, very, big problem.

Is getting into the system. That is hard and that can only be fixed by politicians.



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