Today I finally understood the reason why our Health Service Executive is unable to deliver a modern health service.
Today I accompanied an elderly relative to hospital for a simple outpatient procedure, and I saw a highly-trained specialist nurse wasting a full half hour transcribing information from one file to another by long-hand. I saw a highly-trained professional struggling to read notes written by a doctor who, in his infinite arrogance, couldn’t be bothered to write clearly and who therefore endangered a patient.
This is the country Enda Kenny claims is at the leading edge of information technology, and yet our health service doesn’t know what its patients are doing unless a vital highly-paid professional laboriously writes it out time and time again.
Database systems have been in existence for many decades. Most developed societies have properly-designed computerised records of patients available to all health professionals at the touch of a button. This is not some sort of groundbreaking new technology, except in Ireland, so why was I surprised at the 1950s technology still pervading our public health system?
I shouldn’t have been surprised, since the reality is that the 1950s technology is also the 1950s mindset.
The people who run the Health Service Executive are trapped in the past and until the government understands this, nothing will change.
I’ve been talking about the malaise at the heart of the system for many years but at the same time it’s easy to blame systems when in reality it isn’t a system that humiliates or disrespects a patient.
The system doesn’t disrespect patients. People disrespect patients. Bad nurses disrespect patients. Arrogant doctors disrespect patients. Slovenly domestic staff disrespect patients. Sniffy administrative staff disrespect patients. And all of those people should know better but many can’t be bothered.
Ultimately, though it isn’t their responsibility, since a properly-functioning system should do three things:
A working system should educate them to understand that respect is vitally important.
It should warn all health employees that they are the employees, not the masters.
A functioning system should impress on medical consultants that they are simply employees paid by the public and that they are obliged to show respect to their customers.
If none of that works, a properly-functioning system should remove people from their jobs when they fail to meet the appropriate standard, but ultimately, none of this works if disrespect and sloppiness are at the heart of our society.
Is it as simple as that?
Do we tolerate doctors with a god complex (people whose education we paid for) and administrators who treat us like dirt because that sort of thing is embedded in the nature of who we are?
Do we tolerate condescending receptionists and gruff nurses because that’s how it has always been?
Are we simply a disrespectful society? Are we a bunch of ill-mannered boors and is that why we have a boorish, ill-mannered, incompetent arrogant health service?
Sadly, I suspect we are.
I suspect that the Health Service Executive is no more than a reflection of the sloppy, arrogant, class-ridden, incompetent, slovenly society we have created for ourselves.
Isn’t it time we changed not only the Health Service Executive but the way we behave?