Crisis? Here’s the evidence

A little over a fortnight ago I experienced shooting pains in both arms and hands which caused some sleepless nights and then became so unbearable one early Thursday morning my wife took me to the Tui Urgent Medical Clinic on Te Rapa Straight in Hamilton.  We left our home in Te Kowhai at around 4:30am.

We are fortunate that we could afford the $90 fee so were quickly tended to by an excellent medical staff, the doctor diagnosing a probable osteopathic cause but concerned that there might be a neurological condition, recommended that my wife take me to the Emergency Department (ED) at Waikato Hospital. We had the option of his referral to a specialist but that would most likely involve weeks of arranging an appointment and then tests, however if I went to the ED, I would probably be seen to that day.

We arrived at the ED at around 5:30am.

Tom Roa

There were already more than 20 people there – at least half of whom were clearly there seeking help, all of whom my wife and I could see were worse off than me.  I joined the queue.  I could see how busy the staff there were, how they went about their business efficiently, effectively, professionally.

I was seen within 15 minutes of my arrival, a minor miracle given the queue, and a triage nurse saw to me in a room separate from the waiting room within the next 15 minutes, catching my details, taking my temperature and blood pressure, all the while with a personable, reassuring, manner, noting my pain and offering and administering paracetamol which, at the time, I felt wasn’t that effective!  But I appreciated the attention.  My wife and I went back into the waiting room which by then had attracted probably another 20 people or more.

I watched and marvelled at how the staff coped with this procession of people with various ailments, clearly from all walks of life, of all shapes and sizes, young and old and all ages in between, some in wheelchairs, on crutches, some bandaged, all with pained expressions on their faces, suffering.

All of the staff were magnificent.

Their patience with all of their patients – some of whom were less than patient – was a poetry in motion.  Doctors, nurses, orderlies, cleaners, clearly all were not just ‘doing a job’.  They were each and every one of them efficiently and effectively going about their ‘business’. It was clear to me that each of them was committed to providing the best care they could for each and every one who came into that space.

By 6am I had been triaged, all my details taken, only in pain if I moved suddenly or awkwardly, seated comfortably, with a cup of tea.

For the next six hours I continued to observe and marvel at the dedication and diligence of the staff in the treatment and attention they gave to those seeking their help.  And interestingly, met with people we hadn’t seen for years, reconnecting in this most unlikely of meeting spaces, and making new acquaintances in the process.

However, I wasn’t seen by a doctor until 12:30pm.  He also was excellent, but clearly worked off his feet.  Within 15 minutes he had reviewed my paperwork, gleaned from me my family history, made connections through people we knew in common, and reassured me that he would arrange a bed for me and for appropriate blood tests, an MRI scan, and X-ray tests to be conducted.  I went back to the Waiting Room.

By 6pm, I had still not been admitted to a ward, nor had a bed been found for me.  The hospital was chokka!

I made my way to the nurse when there was miraculously no-one in the queue.  I remarked on how I could see how busy they were, and reflected with her on my observations of their work ethic but that my wife and I had been there since 5:30am and were exhausted.  If they couldn’t find a bed for me then perhaps we were better off going home and coming back in the morning – although that most likely would mean I would lose my place in the queue for MRI scanning and X-ray testing.

She showed an immediate appreciation for my plight, explained that the hospital was at capacity, that the ward the doctor had recommended I be admitted to was full, and they were seeking another space for me.  I was at the top of their priority list.

I thanked her and suggested that we might wait for another hour, and if there was no space for me then we might head home. I suggested to my wife that she might call our daughter to come sit with me, and she head off home.

By 7pm our daughter had joined me and my wife had gone home. There being a gap in the queue I made my way again to the charge nurse who then immediately arranged a bed for me in ED, where, as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out!!

My primary message is that of an appreciation of our health professionals.

Moreover we see and hear reports of a health system which is in dire straits, and that health professionals in particular nurses and doctors have long been asserting a crisis in the need for better attention to the retention of our health professionals and to the training of more doctors and nurses.

I have a first-hand experience of this crisis.

A principal step in that direction in this region could be in the support of the introduction of a Medical School at the University of Waikato in collaboration with Waikato Hospital and Te Whatu Ora.

Tihei mauriora!

  • Tom Roa is a professor in the University of Waikato’s Te Pua Wananga ki te Ao – Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies.
  • The university has been endeavouring to establish the country’s third medical school since 2016.
  • It established Waikato’s second nursing school in 2021.

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