Fri | Dec 6, 2019

Andre Michael | Hell has no fury like a mother scorned

Published:Friday | November 15, 2019 | 12:47 AM

Recently, social media has been buzzing with images and information regarding the confrontation between People’s National Party councillor Kari Douglas and a medical doctor at the Bustamante Hospital for Children. According to the report in The Gleaner on Monday, November 11, Douglas brought her baby to the hospital because he had a high fever. While at the hospital, she was told by the doctor that her baby’s condition was not an emergency and she was allegedly given a gate pass to leave the premises. That is when all hell broke loose.

I see a lot of doctors lamenting their disapproval on social media regarding the behaviour of Ms Douglas, and that they are fatigued by the constant level of abuse and disrespect that they experience from patients.

Quite frankly, I am not surprised by Douglas’ reaction, neither do I condemn it.

We have to understand that in that very instant, between the hours of 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. that Monday, Douglas was not operating as a councillor, she was a mom. A scared mom. Not scared for herself, but scared for the life of her child, who in her head, could possibly die.

DENGUE EPIDEMIC

As a councillor, I am sure Douglas is aware of the dengue epidemic plaguing the island and the number of fatalities, most of whom are children, at the hand of this disease. The Ministry of Health and Wellness is encouraging parents to seek urgent medical attention if they at all suspect that their child is infected with the disease, and that is exactly what Douglas did.

So imagine as a mother, your baby is sick, and you take that child to the only person who can help him, only to be told that your case is not urgent enough?!

One would believe that the Bustamante Hospital for Children would be the most compassionate, caring hospital in the region, as it is the only institution of its kind, specialising solely in paediatric care. Unfortunately, however, this does not seem to be the case at all.

Douglas’ experience is not unique. I personally know quite a few mothers who had to get just as radical, or even worse, with the staff at the hospital, just so their child can get some medical attention.

It seems to me that the staff at the hospital needs a few lessons in empathy, customer service and compassionate care. There seems to be a huge degradation in the way the staff communicate (or not) with the patients. It seems that all the stories I have heard about mothers’ experience at the facility, always get heated at – “Then she say…”, followed by a string of folly from the staff, causing the mother to go into defence mode.

Even if what you say is factual, the way it is communicated will greatly impact how it is received by the hearer.

Now, I do recognise the doctors’ concerns, and I totally agree that our MDs deserve the utmost respect. The doctors in our medical facilities are grossly underpaid and understaffed. The job is very demanding and stressful and sometimes they have to work two and three shifts to help as much persons as possible. Doctors work hard and I do believe that they deserve better.

But I believe that a lot of the conflicts between patients and doctors could have been avoided with better communication tactics. For example, in the case of Ms Douglas, even if the doctor, in her wisdom and expertise, did not feel like the case was an emergency, how about she had said something like: “Your child does not seem to have the dengue virus, but I will give him some medicine and check on him in the next three hours to see if his fever has subsided”. How do you think this scenario would have panned out?

We all deserve some respect, and even though doctors are not getting fair remuneration and appreciation, that is not the fault of the patients. Your job is to exercise some compassion and empathy and administer the best level of care.

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