A resident doctor in a nursing home, Dr Tan Chek Wee wrote in to the Straits Times highlighting how family members abuse health-care proffessionals. But the doctor only painted one side of the story. Here's my response to his letter, which is published in the ST today, Monday 5th April 2010,page A18. Check it out.
I refer to Dr Tan Chek Wee's letter last Saturday, “Help caregivers abused by patients, kin”.
While health-care proffesionals face increasing stress from complaints, family members also face anxiety and stress when health-care standards are not up to scratch. Dr Tan has presented one side of the story; let me present the other.
In November 2006, my wife who receives treatment at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to manage her schizophrenia and depression, had to undergo total knee replacement surgery at a public hospital. She also has arthritis and three other chronic illnesses.
As required, I typed out a list of the 42 drugs she was taking, which included 21 psychiatric tablets and gave it to the ward staff. I took pains to explain in detail how the drugs were to be taken. This is because the wrong dosage could result in a relapse of my wife's mental illness, and her full recovery could take as long as a year.
On the first night in the ward, a nurse almost gave her the wrong dosage for one of the critical drugs for her mental illness. If it was not for my checks, my wife could have suffered a relapse. At a result of this, I had no choice but to rush down by taxi everyday before her drugs were given, so I could counter-check her medications. That placed undue stress on me.
I did not make a complaint, but the anaesthetist who understood how difficult it is to manage mental illness cautioned the nurses. For the five days that my wife stayed in hospital, I suffered alone.
So try to understand the anxiety and stress that family members face when service standards are far from satisfactory.
With Singapore striving for excellence in health care, complaints are bound to arise. Feedback helps us to improve the level of service. And even though complaints may arise from time to time, health-care proffesionals should take it as part and parcel of their job.
Raymond Anthony Fernando
Footnote: Many in our society still cannot accept people with mental illness. A few choose to pass the most humilating and cruel remarks about sufferes of mental illness. Like this guy who does not reveal his real name and posted a very wicked remark on the ST online forum, after reading this letter to the ST: He calls himself , KOKOKBIRD. This is what he has said: "Taking 42 tablets daily? Even a doctor will be confused.... Better euthanise her".
We must go all out and shame such unkind people or the mentally ill and ther caregivers will find it so hard to reintegrate back into society.
Raymond Anthony Fernando