'Get back to basics and do the medicine'

Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand chairman Stephen Mark (right), of Christchurch,...
Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand chairman Stephen Mark (right), of Christchurch, along with urologists, nurses and support staff who worked at a special super-clinic at Dunedin Hospital last weekend. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The planning and implementation of the urology super-clinic at Dunedin Hospital should be a lesson to those at the top, writes Calvin Oaten.

Fortuitously, the moment I submit my first opinion on the health system, the urology department gets fired up and action happens and I have to write a different piece.

So who instigated this move? Was it the bureaucracy, the commissioners or a revolution of the people? No, it was the medical folk in the urology department headed by Dr Al Hepburn, as reported in Monday's ODT, who set up, and expedited the exercise, due it seems to concern over the backlog of patients who were unable to get remediation of any sort in the system.

Dr Hepburn had for some time been concerned over the situation, and nothing was coming from the hierarchy. He organised the importing of skilled staff for the weekend, got the empathetic ear of the local folk in the department and put it to the patients that if they were willing to forgo their weekend then he might be able to help them. Well why wouldn't you? The response was overwhelming and the result is the problem has been attended to.

It involved recruiting from outside Otago-Southland, nine urologists, together with three locals, together with nursing and sterilising staff from other areas, plus general theatre staff as well as urology staff worked through the weekend for the clinic. A herculean effort of organising and expediting the exercise. Not a mention of a new building, nor any bureaucrats nudging the exercise, except for two commissioners, Kathy Grant and Richard Thomson, helping out, doing what, who would know. The net result is a job well done.

All this represents a revolution of sorts against the system, which is overwhelmed by buildings, non-qualified people and just plain bureaucratic nonsense. All arguments for my contentions that the neoliberalism of the existing systems is constraining, costly to an extreme, doesn't need billion-dollar buildings to fulfil the simple business of doing the medicine requirements, just good old medical nous, empathy and the will of the people involved. When I see the photo of staff involved at the weekend, all I see is ordinary folk who are keen to get on with it, and see the folk troubled fixed to the best of their ability. It should be a lesson to those at the top, and a shiver for the leeches in between deliberating and muttering ``rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb'' in their moustaches all day without a clue as to what the reality of the matter is.

That this could fit throughout the hospital system is a fact, given the opportunity and the will. But first they must get rid of the thinking which has pervaded for so long. Then they need to get rid of the desire for new buildings, and remodel the existing, which should be a much more economical exercise - assuming of course they have already got rid of the bureaucratic thinking. Just get back to basics and do the medicine.

I can think of no better medical superintendent than Dr Al Hepburn. Watch the hospital turn around and get going then. People would be amazed.

Calvin Oaten is a senior citizen concerned over the state of the health of our hospital.


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