Since Wednesday, Chatterboy has been in Royal North Shore Hospital being treated for pneumonia. On Friday, when he’d turned the corner, the doctors admitted to us that they had been quite worried about him on Thursday, when nothing seemed to be working, and he was lying there, listlessly, on oxygen, not wanting to talk. He’s just come home this afternoon, alternating between wanting to run everywhere, and then sitting down because, “I still feel a bit tired.”
He was a public patient, and received what looked to me like superb care. And I say that even though he spent the first 16 hours of his time there in Emergency because they didn’t have enough beds.
He was in the very new Children’s Ward (new in the last three years at least, since he was last there), which has a school (two teachers who have resources to share out), a play area and a fairy garden attached. It was decorated with children’s paintings, and, while clearly a hospital, there had been an attempt made to cheer it up a bit with small decorative touches around the place. His TV was free, and there was a special entertainment unit available if needed, with DVDs and video games. He was in a four bed ward at first, and then a two bed ward with ensuite bathroom.
Family involvement was enouraged and welcome. Parents could visit any time, and were provided with a cot bed if they wanted to stay overnight (not especially comfortable, but better than a chair in the corner!). There was a special parent’s lounge with free coffee, tea and cereals.
He had two doctors involved in his case the whole time, plus assorted junior ones. They kept him in an extra night just to make sure (although they were pretty convinced) that he could get through the night without needing extra oxygen. The only slightly negative note was that a lot of the nurses seemed to be agency ones – leading to a lack of understanding of hospital routines (only noticeable to me at least, to be fair, on discharge).
And it was entirely free.
A lot of what impressed me about it was not so much the care -notwithstanding that the doctors seemed really thoughtful and interested in what was a slightly puzzling case – but the extra bits and pieces. Chatterboy’s spirits really lifted when he discovered the fairy garden. And he got very excited when the teacher brought some computer games for him to play, even before he was well enough to get out of bed.
I haven’t been a patient in a public hospital, but I imagine that the adults don’t get the same level of small luxuries, or even nice decoration. They’re generally paid for by the various children’s charities, which of course raise money for children, because who wouldn’t give money for sick children? But I’m sure they make a difference to the happiness of patients, and perhaps even their health (the signs in the children’s ward seemed pretty convincing on the importance of psychological health for their pediatric patients). It’s the kind of thing, though, that hospital administrators would find it hard to spend public money on – when the choice is some extra books or video games for the adults, or another of the latest hi-tech diagnostic machines.
I’m glad we look after our sick children so well. But I think (without much direct evidence, admittedly) our sick adults have been becoming second class citizens for some time.