Groundhog Days

When I unexpectedly found myself in hospital last year I was so impressed I later wrote to them – "Last Friday I was rushed into the Emergency reception of the Canberra Hospital with a sudden and worryingly potential life-threatening illness. My treatment by the Emergency staff, the EMU area, and then the Cardiac Care Unit, was first class. Everyone dealt with me quickly, professionally, calmly, and with as much care and warmth as if I had been brother or father, not a mere stranger rushed into their ward needing help. I appreciated my own care enormously, but watched with awe as everyone received this incredible service. In work that was constant and difficult, and far too much really for the level of staffing, nurses and doctors, registrars and support staff, all performed calmly and quickly and with an extraordinarily high level of skills. My family, and friends, and I are are all so grateful for our wonderful public hospital. The people of the ACT and surrounding areas are immensely lucky to have this wonderful group ready and willing to help in times of need and distress. I dips my lid to you all. Thank you Canberra Hospital."

I thought it was important to get it on the record somehow, given the constant refrain of stories from the media, another one just last week, about miscarriages and hospital infections and misdiagnosis, and sending people home who then die, and all the rest of the tv current affairs fodder. You know how the script plays out. Before you can say "cynical hypocritical opportunist" there is the opposition health spokesperson, arm around the mother/spouse/daughter/victim being a comfort. The tv media scum (sorry, scrum) crowd in, camera lenses probing closer and closer to the face of the victim, searching for the first quivering lip, the first sign of tears. The opposition spokesperson will demand action/compensation/heads rolling. The minister, trapped in their car by the media scum (oops), will promise an inquiry. The current affairs presenter, back in the studio, will look suitably mournful, wonder what the world is coming to, demand to know when the minister will act to fix our hospitals. And then the next night the script will be the same, but the issue will be public transport/schools/roads/old people's homes/child day care/environmental degradation, along with weeping victims of some kind, cynical opposition cuddlers, shifty ministers, and indignant presenters.

And the very next night, indeed perhaps on the same night, the attention span of presenters being so short, will come a story about outrageously high taxes and charges. The hard man finance spokesperson from the opposition will demand tax reduction for businesses/the rich/giant corporations/mining companies/oil companies/luxury car businesses/tourism. The hard man minister will say those tax cuts are in the pipeline and in addition there will be cuts to taxes on gambling/alcohol/cigarettes and he will get rid of speed cameras. The hard man presenter will nod wisely and suggest that until taxes for the rich are cut to zero they will be ruined and so will be the economy because there will be no trickling down.

It occurs to no one to say – but if you keep slashing taxes how are we, as a society, going to pay to fix the problems in hospitals/public transport/schools/roads/old people's homes/child day care/environment?

And the very next night, there will be yet another, hopefully, weeping victim of some failure in a desperately underfunded/understaffed/over stretched hospital emergency ward. And the same cynical opposition spokesperson playing at being sympathetic.

There are times when I feel I am Bill Murray in the film "Groundhog Day". Do you know it? If you don't, borrow it, and enjoy the story of a world doomed to endlessly repeat, unknowingly, the same experiences, while thinking that each new day is a new day. But hospital emergency staff should know that, out here in the real world away from tvcurrentaffairsland, people greatly appreciate them, are indeed in awe of them, and think that they should be given a lot more help and support, and a lot less cynical criticism. Wouldn't make good television though, and we can't let the scum (sorry, sorry) scrum, be unemployed.

Can we?

All David Horton's earlier writing is here