This is not some fancy journalistic rant but a real experience.
I get a call from the wife. A blood test she went for has come back with alarming results and she needs to go to hospital almost immediately. I drop my pen and head off in a flurry leaving my colleagues to pick up the pieces of what has generally been a real crappy day.
Now, for the record, she has a kind of medical aid plan. Problem is, it’s not one of those fancy bells and whistles big money schemes, but one that only allows for the basics. So our options are limited. State hospital. As we drive I brief her. Tygerberg is a better option. There is, however, a catch. Our geographic location determines we must go Somerset Hospital. My heart sinks. I have memories and experiences of others that have been there and the horror stories they have come away with.
First off, we arrive and get told to report to security. He whips out a copied to death, black photo copy of a form to be filled and tells us to “sit there”. I am told I am not allowed to sit here. Only the patient. In a flash I learn it's best not to challenge the status quo.
A folder needs to be opened. The lady behind the glass has had a long day. She’s in no mood for faffing around. Anyway, I leave the missus and slink off to sit in a corner to watch SABC soapies. A short while later the missus gets called for triage. That done she’s told to “sit there”. Again I relinquish all power to the security guard in control and slink off to my soapies. And so begins the hours in a waiting room corridor at Somerset Hospital.
Within the first hour the sharing starts. It’s difficult to describe. A behavioural scientist will probably have a definition for when people in the same plight find strength in sharing their stories. We got there just before five in the afternoon. Others have been there since ten in the morning. They’ve lost count of the hours. Bonds of friendship are formed.
I soon realise there is no point in asking questions. No point in challenging or trying to enforce any form of authority or will. The only option is to sit, be quite, and wait.
There is an endless movement of humans coming with varying degrees of injuries. Some are so bloodied and battered, they get priority. The others like the wife that are “code green” are of lessor importance right now. Then there are the children. You enter through the double doors. The paediatric ward is to your left. It’s small. The endless cries of children in pain and distress go with you before you turn to go the adult trauma ward.
A nurse tells me the wait can be anything up to FIVE hours before a doctor is available. Doctors and nurses are at their last tether. They are doing their absolute best to be kind and offer comfort and medical help to all. Against the odds they do the best they can. They are like superheroes trying to save the world. Their victories go unnoticed and scarcely rewarded.
For the record, the wife sat on a hard steal chair for twelve hours before she saw a doctor. And she was not the only one. There were too many to count.
Winnie Mandela was laid to rest in April. Julius Malema trumpeted like only Julius can that Cape Town International Airport must have a name change in her honour. We have OR Tambo and King Shaka International Airports. All the major highways into Cape Town have undergone a change in identity. According to an article in Business Tech the city of Tshwane spent over R98 million rand on changing 25 street names. The City of Cape Town’s is a mystery to me.
Just last week, IOL carried a story of the chaos at Khayelitsha Hospital. One merely has to go to any day hospital to witness how seniors have to stand in the cold and rain from 6am in the morning to get much needed medical help. I’ve seen it. The list of government’s blatant disregard for those who cannot afford private health care is endless. What I have seen at Eersteriver Hospital made my head spin. The daily grind of the Ruyterwaght Day Hospital and Dirkie Uys in Goodwood for seniors is painful to watch.
Yet, they want to change names to wipe out the tragedies of the past, while right now, the stories of human tragedy caused by a completely flawed government health system is been written every single day in hospitals all around the country. Just look at the Esidimeni tragedy. It’s going to happen again.
Don’t change names. Rewrite our history.