Compassion is free

By Enid Westerlund 30 March 2022, 11:00PM

I’ve been deeply saddened and disappointed by the recent treatment of an elderly father at the Poutasi district hospital during the weekend. His daughter took to social media to express her displeasure which garnered the support of many online.  

Samoa is already under stress due to the current lockdown and the fast spread of Covid community cases. It is a stressful situation so emotions are already running high and it doesn’t help when you see or hear of such cases.  

There are many factors involved but first, where is kindness and compassion? Covid positive cases and fear shouldn’t be excuses to ill treat people. Put yourself in their shoes. A daughter is seeking help for her father, a Covid patient with underlying medical conditions as he’s asthmatic from what I’ve read. If this was your parent or grandfather, would you have expected such treatment? Of course not.  

1. Second, this is a true reflection of the preparation or lack thereof by the Ministry of Health. Why weren’t tents in place for such cases if proper housing wasn’t available?  Better preparations and risk management would have solved this problem.  

2. Where was the person in charge? Usually, nurses call the responsible doctor on duty if she is unclear on the proper protocols. If so, where was the manager or doctor when the patient was placed outside? Maybe if he or she was present, the issue would’ve been resolved before it was shared on social media. 

3. Customer service and Training: Customer service has always been a problem in Samoa and with Covid it will bring out even more problems. Although we may not see patients as customers, fees are paid in exchange for services. Discrimination and condescending attitudes from front line staff is not new and neither are limited to the health departments. Discriminatory attitudes make us think we are better than others. 

It is everywhere. It all comes down to the person and what they bring to the workplace. Training will help this further. 

I remember taking an employee, who was bitten by a dog, to the hospital a few years ago. His leg was bleeding profusely and needed immediate attention. Instead of treating him straight away, I could hear the nurse telling him off. “How did the dog attack you? You are so careless and you are not a kid.”  

I was appalled by her tone and expected better from a health care provider who is known to be compassionate and caring. Before she continued further, I poked my head in and suggested that maybe she can stop the bleeding while she’s lecturing! 

She just looked shocked and with pursed lips started cleaning the man’s wound. Isn’t it time we aim for better attitude and service? If not excellence, improvement at least?  

4. Communication: There are several sides to a story, just like a courtroom. There is a judge, jury, defendant, prosecutor, accused, defending lawyer and let’s not forget the audience. We were not present when this lady and her father needed help. There are different versions of what happened and we shouldn’t be quick to point fingers.  

I wonder if the lady voiced her complaint to the nurse looking after them before taking to social media. Good communication between all concerned would have helped. 

It’s simply pride that causes us to be unhelpful instead of caring properly for people regardless of who they are and what they have. If the man was a member of parliament or a faifeau, would they have received the same treatment? We should treat people with the same respect we give to our family. Sadly, this is not the case. 

5. Suggestion boxes and complaints: When the public writes suggestions and complaints, are they dealt with properly? Are they really effective? Today it is normal for people to complain on social media and I don’t blame them. Instead of asking why people do this, we should be thankful for social media because many of these complaints will not be heard or given attention.  

Imagine the old way of doing things whereby this lady will have to jump through several hoops and ten people before she’s granted an appointment with the CEO. By then, she’ll have to repeat her story to ten different people and the complaint will be swept under the carpet and forgotten until the next mishap. 

MOH replied to the media and said there will be an investigation into this case. Hopefully the resulting report will act as a working document for retraining and refocus and won’t be just another addition to the filing cabinet. 

6. Education and patience: We together with every government ministry or enterprise should all educate ourselves about the use of social media. We should learn more about dealing with complaints and getting consent when it comes to recording, sharing and publicising information. 

A repetition of unprofessional behaviour means we should go back to the drawing board to retrain staff, starting with management, middle management, front line workers and cleaners. It’s a holistic approach to the whole system. 

A little compassion goes a long way. We are all in this together and kindness is free.  With limited resources and hospital staff, we, the public, should be patient. We know about the limited resources and now with front line workers infected with Covid, all systems are stretched. At the end of the day, love and respect will carry us through.


By Enid Westerlund 30 March 2022, 11:00PM
Samoa Observer

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