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Monday, October 24, 2005

Vice Versa

For the past few weeks, I've been spending most of my working afternoons visiting hospital wards to give presentations to the nurses working there.

For the past week or so, I've been visiting cancer wards. And: let me tell you. They're depressing. Really depressing.

Let's face it: when visiting a cancer ward, most people would probably expect it to be depressing. You'd probably expect to be depressed because the patients there are suffering from a disease that we're all scared of; or because some of them are sick from chemotherapy; or maybe you'd feel sad looking at the faces of worried relatives.

Don't get me wrong. I find all of those things in the back of my mind each time I walk onto the ward. But that's mainly where they stay: in the back of my mind. The attitude of the staff that work there is such that your mood is lifted - distracted from the stark fact that the patients on this ward are suffering from cancer.

No, what's depressing is the ward itself. It's dark. It's dingy. The furniture is old. In fact, everything looks old. It's not cold, but for some reason it feels cold. There's no colour. Anywhere. Everything's brown or grey. Everything's totally non-discript. It's not dirty, but it's so dark that somehow it doesn't seem clean.

In a word: depressing.

Before I started the training sessions on the cancer wards, I was doing sessions on the private patients wards at the hospital. The contrast couldn't be more dramatic. There are only ten floors between the two departments, but it feels like two entirely different worlds. You walk into private patients, and it's like walking into a hotel. The lighting is beautiful. There are flowers everywhere. There's colour. Everything looks new. Everything's clean.

Some of the patients on that private ward may be in there for serious illnesses. But some will just be in for routine treatment. They'll just have an overnight stay in their hotel-like environment. Be home the next day.

Yet their counterparts ten floors below may be in hospital for weeks. Lying there in a bed in a non-descript, depressing ward.

Occur to anyone else that it should be our cancer wards that are beautiful? Occur to anyone else that if all those private patients put the money they were spending on private healthcare into the NHS instead, we'd maybe have cancer wards that are uplifting rather than depressing? Occur to anyone else that this whole situation just seems... wrong?

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