OPINION: I recently found myself at the very coalface of New Zealand’s healthcare “crisis” and to be honest, from a user’s point of view, it might just be a little overcooked.
Like most kiwi blokes I’d been willfully ignoring several health warning signs for a few months and when I finally decided to book a doctor’s appointment a couple of weeks back that was stymied by a suicide in my family.
One thing led to another and the morning after the family funeral I was finally booked to see my GP who promptly begged off sick.
By this stage I was pretty sure I was in the early stages of a heart attack, so I got member of the Platform staff to drive me Wellington Hospital A and E clutching my chest and insisting I’d be fine.
The screeching headlines had me expecting some sort of MAS*H experience, people on stretchers being triaged in corridors, exhausted medicos sleeping on the floor and an atmosphere of chaos and despair. In truth, apart from a temporary marquee foyer where my vaccination status and personal details were taken there was not a hint of Hawkeye Pearce or the 4077th in what I experienced.
First up there were only six other people in the A and E waiting area, the hundreds of Covid sufferers overtaxing our fragile health system seemed to be on a day off. In less than ten minutes I was seen by a nurse who gave me a quick assessment and sent me on for a chest Xray after which I was back in the waiting room pending a more senior staffer assessing my case.
Ninety minutes on I was in the emergency ward with the full ECG on, bloods tests being processed, pulses taken, IV line inserted and wearing one of those hospital smocks designed to make you look so ridiculous you are simply to embarrassed to leave your bed.
All this was done with a minimum of stress and drama, efficiently, methodically and professionally.
By evening I was in the cardiac ward with an angiogram booked for the next day and a chart hooked over the bottom of my bed. All had been done calmly and smoothly.
A very good friend delivered some pyjamas so I could walk around, my mum came in to embarrass me and I lay back and relaxed in the loving embrace of the taxpayer funded health system.
As a reporter of course I was asking every nurse, doctor and orderly I encountered how they were doing, the answer was pretty much the same from each one, tired, working long hours covering for sick colleagues and not likely to send Health Minister Andrew Little a Christmas card this year. There was no panic, self-pity, anger or hopelessness just a stoic commitment to getting on with the task at hand.
By midday Friday with a stent installed in my heart, a diagnosis of an elevated heart rate which is totally treatable and a prescription list longer than my arm I was discharged with the daunting task of finding tickets for the Saturday night’s All Blacks vs Ireland test.
A mate came through with a corporate box ticket for the game which to be honest was more stressful than having a heart attack during an international pandemic while our health system is at “breaking point”.
I get the feeling our health workforce will make it through this tough winter, I can’t praise them enough for the remarkable care I received and am quietly thankful Ian Foster never studied medicine.