Is there a better way of doing things? My answer is:…

…”Yes. How do we do it better? Let’s find the way.”

I think it is a tragedy to say: “No way. It is impossible. That’s the way we have been doing it. We can’t help it if you find it inconvenient.”

It is equally bad to say: “Yes, but it will cost a lot. Ultimately, you have to bear the cost.”

The latter two responses mean that nothing can be done and you have to live with it. And they seem to be the favourite answers to any suggestions for improvements to some of the current practices.

This negative mindset has to change. I believe something can be done to further reduce unnecessary inconveniences to the public. Let’s look at the hospital which is my second home.

I have to go there every two months for an infusion to strengthen my bones.

On a recent visit, the admissions clerk suggested I come for treatment on another day as there were no beds available. What’s more, my case was not one of “life and death”.

My mother refused as she felt it was not fair.

The last time we had a similar experience, we returned on another day after having to make a lot of schedule adjustments and some sacrifices.

Moreover, in this case the appointment was fixed two months ahead of time.

The clerk said: “I am sorry. There is nothing I can do. If you want you have to wait but I do not know how long it will take.”

I can understand there was nothing she could do at that moment. However, that should not have stopped her from raising the issue with someone who could.

I do not think mine was an isolated case as there was someone else in a similar predicament that day. There are two things they could have done.

First, as the appointment had been made well ahead of time, they could have called us before we left home to change the date. They didn’t have to wait for us to arrive at the hospital to do so.

Second, they could have arranged to discharge patients more quickly to free up the beds.

It takes a long time – once more than three hours – for the hospital to let me leave after the doctor has given the clearance for me to be discharged. The long wait is for the staff to do the paperwork and get the medicine for me to take home.

Surely, all that could be done earlier so that I could vacate the bed for the next patient.

For regular “customers” whose appointments are confirmed and treatment known, the process could be smoother.

Everything, including the bed and the medicine, could be arranged in advance. When a patient arrives, he could go straight to the ward for treatment.

For now, I have to wait two to three hours after admission for the medicine to come from the pharmacy and the infusion to start. That’s not the way to treat a regular patient who does not have much patience.

Waiting also seems to be common at the hospital clinic. With or without an appointment, it is not unusual to wait one to two hours to see the doctor for, sometimes, about five minutes.

Can the waiting time be cut? Yes, I believe it could be done at little or no additional cost if the “experts” put their minds to it. After all, we have seen a lot of improvements at hospitals.

Some action could also be taken to make waiting more comfortable. When waiting is pleasant, one hour is like five minutes. However, when it causes anxiety, five minutes seems like an eternity.

I may not have all the solutions, but I am sure there are many ways to make life better for the public.

(This journal entry is published in TODAY on 20 May 2005)