PETITION FOR BETTER CARE OF THE FRAIL AND ELDERLY BY GOVERNMENT HEALTH
FOR THE ATTENTION OF WESTERN CAPE GOVERNMENT HEALTH
This petition requests Western Cape Government Health to treat frail and elderly patients with more compassion and consideration. It proposes a simple solution for reducing their time in waiting rooms.
For those unfamiliar with the procedure for routine or follow-up appointments at government day hospitals, here is an outline.
1. An 8am appointment, for example, does not mean the patient is seen at 8am. It means that each patient with an 8am appointment is part of a group of patients scheduled for triage starting at 8am. The order of the folders is (randomly) selected by an administrator and the wait for triage begins.
2. A triage nurse then assesses the patient, decides the urgency of the matter, and assigns a colour code that determines how and where the patient will be treated for that day:
- Green - Routine
- Yellow - Urgent
- Orange - Very urgent
- Red - Emergency
Their folder is added to the appropriate pile and the patient is directed to the designated waiting room to be seen by the doctor.
3. The doctor:
- Sees the patient in the order in which the files are presented;
- Decides on the treatment, which could include further tests that add to the waiting time;
- Prescribes medication if needed.
4. If medication is prescribed, the patient proceeds to the onsite pharmacy where their folder is added to a pile of folders and the wait for their medication begins.
Typically, the day's wait is from 4-6 hours.
Surely frail and ederly patients deserve to be treated differently to the younger, healthier patients who are physically and emotionally better equipped to spend hours waiting on hard benches?
HOW THIS PLAYS OUT FOR OUR FRAIL AND ELDERLY
This story represents what happens to thousands of our frail and elderly every day in our current healthcare system due to their limited resources. The picture that accompanies this petition is of my mother at her last follow-up visit. This was her timeline on the day:
- She was seen by the triage nurse at approximately 9.15.
- She was seen by the doctor just before 1.
- She submitted her folder to the pharmacy at approximately 1.20.
- She received her medication from the pharmacy at approximately 3.20.
The image attached is her at 12.30 trying to find a comfortable position to rest on the bench. Recovery from her current illness requires plenty of bed rest along with pain medication three times a day to help her manage her pain. On this particular day, Cape Town was experiencing a heat wave, which exacerbated the situation.
However, because the triage nurse had already decided that my mother's situation was not dire, none of the medical staff I approached intervened. This highlights a flaw in the way they process patients.
Suppose the folders belonging to the frail and the elderly were differentiated by a bright-coloured sticker indicating that the package is "FRAGILE: HANDLE WITH CARE".
Without any major system or process changes:
- The administrators would know to place these folders at the top of the pile so that the wait for triage could be reduced.
- The triage nurse would know to place the folder at the top of the green or yellow pile so that the wait for the doctor could be reduced.
- The pharmacy staff would know to place their folders at the top of the pile so that their wait for medication could be reduced.
THIS PETITION DOESN'T ASK FOR A MAJOR CHANGE IN PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES WHEN DEALING WITH THE FRAIL AND ELDERLY. IT SIMPLY ASKS THAT THEIR FOLDERS BE PRIORITISED WITH BRIGHTLY-COLOURED STICKERS INDICATING THAT THEY ARE FRAGILE AND NEED TO BE HANDLED WITH CARE. IT AIMS TO REDUCE THEIR TIME IN WAITING ROOMS.
For those in agreement that our parents and grandparents deserve to be treated with more compassion and consideration within our healthcare system, please show your support by signing this petition.
Allison Ross Contact the author of the petition
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