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    Wednesday, June 29, 2005

    Not so Easy Targets: A young doctor speaks up against emegency room turn around targets:

    A young doctor yesterday accused the Government of turning her hospital into a “war zone” as Patricia Hewitt became the first Health Secretary to address the British Medical Association in its 173-year history.

    Jennie Blackwell, a senior house officer, told Ms Hewitt that she and her colleagues dreaded going to work because Government targets had left her unit completely overwhelmed by patients.

    Describing chaotic pressures that left patients “strewn all round the unit”, Dr Blackwell, who is a member of the Junior Doctors’ Committee, said that people were often forced to wait for hours on trolleys in the corridor before they were treated.

    Dr Blackwell, 27, took Ms Hewitt to task over the target that 98 per cent of accident and emergency patients should be seen and treated within four hours. She said that many patients were being moved from A&E into her medical assessment unit before they had been treated properly, simply to meet the target.

    She added that life-threatening illnesses were getting overlooked as overstretched doctors struggled to cope, while paramedics were left waiting with patients instead of responding to new emergencies.

    “It’s like a war zone,” Dr Blackwell said of her hospital, which she declined to name but said was in the North West. “We have patients strewn all over the unit, sitting in non medical areas with serious medical conditions. It is frankly dangerous that we don’t have the facilities to cope with these things. Please, please, please reduce this target as it’s awful for patients and awful for us.”

    Now, before we all snicker at the obvious folly of governments dictating the practice of medicine, let us pause and note that the same thing happens in the United States. It's just that the enforcers of the target are hospital administrators rather than government bureaucrats. The origin is the same - the government or the hospital administration hears from patients that the long waits in the emergency rooms are horrible. Since neither hospital administrators nor government officials are likely to ever have worked in an emergency room or cared for patients in any capacity, they fail to realize that hold-ups are sometimes a necessary evil. No one should ever ignore a heart attack or life-threatening trauma to take care of an ankle sprain simply because the ankle sprain was first in line. So, they set time targets for their emergency rooms. The end result, unfortunately, is also the same - patients given short shrift as doctors rush to make their time quotas. It may seem good for business in the short-term, but in the long run, it's bad for patients.

    posted by Sydney on 6/29/2005 06:40:00 AM 0 comments


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