There’s a story I tell hopefuls wishing to run for student government. Near the end of 2011 I was elected as chairperson of my med school’s student government. I had made big promises during my campaign and so the first thing I did was (try to) get a meeting with the CEO of our training hospital. Of course, I was told by the gatekeeper’s that a puny little med student can’t just get a meeting with the big important man so instead I had to meet with a faculty member and tell her why I wanted to meet with the CEO and she would decide if I was worthy. (RED TAPE! WOO-HOO!)
One of my big points was safety of students in hospital. I said we wanted radical changes made that would ensure better safety for students at all hours of the day. I thought it laughable that such a massive hospital in a dangerous part of the city had so few safety measures. But this was not deemed important enough. More insultingly, the faculty member did not accept it as a valid point at all. The response, and I quote this verbatim (I still have the minutes of that awful meeting) was, “We have never had any complaints about this, so we will not be putting such measures in place.”
I was fuming. For one, the fact that nobody had complained did not mean that there weren’t any problems. Our campus is notoriously apolitical, and also notorious for not heeding students’ complaints. But for another, when has the fact that something presumably had not yet happened an acceptable excuse to MEDICAL DOCTORS?! Is our maxim not that PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE?!
Well, not even a year later a final year student in the exact hospital was attacked. Then all of a sudden they wanted to put in place safety measures. Not very good measures, I can attest to that.
And recently, safety in these same hospitals has become a matter of national media coverage. Earlier this month, The Sunday Times reported about the unsafe conditions, and today Die Burger had a similar report (you’ll need Google Translate for the latter article).
And yeah. I’m PISSED OFF. I’m angry that it has taken all this time for the matter to be considered important. And I’m angry that when a “little medical student” pointed out the problem THREE YEARS AGO it wasn’t deemed important enough.
I HATE the bureaucracy in the healthcare sector and I hate that so little action is taken to make our professions safer. I hate the expectation that we will suffer in silence and be all stoic and CRAP.
I’m over it. I am just so over it. And don’t even tell me that I should go into the policy side of things and be the one to fix it because I am terrified of becoming like them.
Not being a medical field person, I can’t understand and reach to the core of your problems but I can sure say your efforts seems good. I wish everything gets fine for you.
I used to do politics for my specialty, then one day I was told that majority of the surgeons who do politics are the ones that can’t operate and need the power to make themselves feel important. I realised there was some truth in it when I started to observe that these people were more interested in their positions than listening to the ‘minions’. Politics in hospitals and medicine is the most frustrating aspect of our profession. I hear you.
I don’t know how I feel about that… I am certain there is some truth in that, I just haven’t had much experience as I think the student set-up is very different. I just… I don’t like politics, but I think we should all take responsibility for sticking up when things are going wrong. Not just one or two people that are “politicking” on behalf of the group. Maybe that’s why it’s a problem. But yeah, seriously. This year I’ve been so quiet on that front because I’m just sick and tired of being ignored by administrators. Sometimes it’s better for your sanity to pretend everything’s okay!
Nah, I have just learnt to pick my battles and only fight the things I think really matters. People tend to sit up and listen when you do speak if you are quiet most of the time.
Thanks. I like that advice. I’ll keep it in mind!
Maybe it was difficult to take such a decision with limited resources. Taking such decision earlier might invite criticism of mishandling resource and in the absence of incidences to justify it; it could be easily accused of causing such tragedies.
Good job overseeing the inevitable. At least you tried.
P.S. I feel frustrated though, a student governor couldn’t directly access to the hospital admin. That is ridiculous. We chat with ours in social platforms. Not all of them…you know. And I am from the Middle East.
That’s a very level-headed point. I suppose that may have been a reason for the lack of action. Sigh. If only all countries had good resources!
I think it’s fantastic that you chat with some administrators on social platforms. We only have access to the PR people who are only interested in optimistic marketing of the university and ignore negative comments. It’s so annoying!
Hi Megz 🙂
I’m really sad to read about your frustrations. I’m in a Catholic high school that is just as apolitical and unwilling to budge until their reputation is at stake… What the students suggest hardly ever matters.
Anyway I’ve been reading your blog since the beginning of this year, and it inspires me all the time. I, like you, LOVE reading and have a major obsession and love for Harry Potter.
I just got accepted to study medicine @Stellenbosch and will probably be coming to visit in October sometime. I was hoping to get your email address if you don’t mind- just have a few questions I wanna ask. Sorry to bother you.
P.S I think you’re super cool (really, not trying to butter you up)
Aw, thanks Yami! I appreciate your solidarity 😀
Uber-congratulations on your acceptance – it’s fantastic! I hope you will be celebrating with your family. At least get some chocolate!
I just sent you an email to your gmail address – let me know if you don’t receive it. You’re welcome to send me any questions, although my response might sometimes take a while.
Ugh, that is so frustrating! Red tape is annoying enough, but it’s awful to be made to feel as though your concerns aren’t important because you’re “just” a medical student.