Book Review: Hospital Babylon

Hospital Babylon forms part of Imogen Edwards-Jones’ Babylon-series (famously Air Babylon and Hotel Babylon), which, through the contribution of anonymous confessors, exposes the dirty little secrets of the profession.

Hospital Babylon condenses the confessions into the span of twenty-four hours, with an anonymous protagonist in an unknown hospital. These things did not all happen in one day or in one hospital, but they are real, as told by real staff in the healthcare sector.

Drawing on the experiences of British practitioners, I was interested to see how things are with the NHS and whether there are similarities. And boy are there ever! I didn’t realise that British doctors also struggle with being short-of-staff and with budgets being sliced at the wrong ends. And administrative personnel making decisions that influence clinical practice – oh, I can relate.

It’s also rather good to hear that it is not only here, in South Africa, that doctors get urinated on, vomited on and shouted at by irate and impatient patients.

If you are a healthcare practitioner, you will think at least twice during the course of the book, “Oh, I’ve  heard of someone who did that!” Or even worse, “Oh… I’ve done that!”

I think I might be a bit blunted by my experiences, because I really didn’t think that most of the things are that horrendous from a patient’s point of view. Yes, we find dead bodies in loos, we get assaulted by drunks, we work unearthly hours… but that’s crappy for the practitioners, not something that should instill a fear of hospitals in a patient, surely?

Although, the drugs and alcohol and sex are certainly off-putting. For what it’s worth, the sexual-escapades-in-hospitals are certainly not as ubiquitous in South African public hospitals. I don’t think anyone wants to undress here, for fear of getting scabies. I don’t know if our doctors take some drugs on the sly, but I suppose it’s quite likely. I just haven’t ever heard of such an account in our hospital.

The book has it’s fair share of morbid, gross cases. Which, if you’re super-sensitive, might not appeal to you. I felt it was well-put though, accurately but also simply.

Hospital Babylon gives a pretty accurate view of working in a hospital. On top of that it’s not judgmental, it simply tells a story. It’s quite funny at times too – I’m definitely learning to appreciate British humour.

This was the first Babylon-title I read, so I don’t know how it compares to the others, but it is definitely a read I would recommend – to the layperson and the healthcare worker*.

*Disclaimer: unless you are utterly exhausted and disillusioned, in which case it would probably benefit you to read a nice non-medical novel.


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