Nurses, Patient’s Tension Revisited

ON the walls inside Ndola Central Hospital (NCH) on the Copperbelt, reads an inscription “Kindly take note that members of staff at Ndola Central Hospital work under very strenuous and demanding conditions due to increases in the disease burden and critical shortages of manpower.
Patients and relatives seeking medical attention at Ndola Central Hospital should therefore, be mindful that it may take a bit of time for them to be attended to by our medical personnel.
Assaulting any member of staff is a criminal offence and offenders will be arrested and prosecuted. Thank you – Ndola Central Hospital Management.”
NCH administrator Dande Malambo said the inscription was necessitated following incidences of assaults and verbal abuses medical personnel suffered at the hands of some patients and relatives.
“We encountered a number of physical and verbal abuses from patients and their relatives who always demanded that they be attended to, promptly, without considering the strenuous conditions under which hospital personnel worked due to increased disease burden against high manpower shortages,” said Dr Malambo last week.
Dr Malambo’s views were, however, sharply objected by a middle aged patient who accused hospital personnel who he said, apart from them being uncaring, were in a habit of favouring their friends to be attended to ahead of others on the queue.
“As you can see, this is supposed to be a high cost wing where service is ought to be respectable, but you see these guys (nurses) picking their friends and relatives’ cards ahead of some of us on the queue,” said Shupe Chibaila who was found on the queue at Ndola Central Hospital.
Much as both medical personnel and patients’ views may be valid, question still lingers as how the old time ‘cat and mouse’ patient, nurse tension can be addressed.
Dr Malambo gave a figure of 400 patients that seek medical attention at NCH on a given day against less than 20 medical personnel a situation he said was by any means strenuous.
He, however, said patients had the right to complain to hospital management whenever they noticed unprofessional conduct by some medical staff, but that resorting to abuse would only frustrate and scare medics from performing their duties.
NCH like other provincial referral hospitals maybe overwhelmed by disease burden and constrained by adequate manpower.
From Kitwe emanated reports about some nurses at a named clinic who mistreated patients, especially expectant mothers who were verbally insulted and mocked while in labour.
As if mockery was not bad enough, medics were accused of extorting money from agonising patients whom they ask to find money for extra surgical gloves.
It was said that some midwives would ignore a pair of surgical gloves brought along by patients, but preferred to be given money enough to buy 10 surgical gloves which they pocket.
Lusaka’s biggest hospital, University Teaching Hospital (UTH) records similar if not worse challenges, as reports indicate that on a busy night shift, six midwives battle to deliver 60 expectant mothers.
The situation is not any better in day shift where 15 midwives would attend to 40 deliveries, a scenario that pits three nurses to a ratio against 40 patients.
If experience counted in any profession for efficiency and effective service, newly employed nurses have come with own deficiencies.
This is a crop of nurses employed after the experienced staff were fired for striking over poor remunerations and strained working environment.
It is a situation has been before that much as a new broom swept better, the old one knows all the corners.
Some patients felt that the newly recruited nurses were to raw to arrest the demanding situation in most hospitals.
A newly graduated nurse from a private school said she did not understand how demanding the situation was in hospitals until she was posted to UTH where she said the situation was overwhelming.
“I did my industrial attachment at a less busy hospital, but UTH is highly demanding such that I knock off from work feeling sick after attending to countless patients,” Melody Mwanza said.
She bemoaned some patients’ demands to be attended to promptly even when there could be other serious patients who needed such attention.
“One expects that patients who may not be in serious life threatening conditions would understand to be attended to ahead of those in critical pain,” Ms Mwanza said.
She wondered that some patients were so impatient that they would rather see other patients die but be attended to first, even when they were not in danger.
Going by NCH inscription that asks patients to bear with medical personnel, Ms Mwanza said most patients did not know that even when nurses were required to work six hours for day shifts and 12 hours for those doing night shifts, they worked beyond those hours.
“We are supposed to work six hour shifts during the day and 12 hours during the night, but what happens sometimes is that one continues or does not knock if the other one did not report for work, meaning heshe has to endure the hours of pressure,” she said.
Earlier statistics of 60 deliveries against six midwives in the night shift and that one would be required to continue the following day up to 13:00 hours would result into pressure and fatigue.
From the aforesaid, it is true that medical personnel maybe overwhelmed with increased disease burden on the backdrop of swelled population.
It is also true that patients, especially when in pain desire to be attended to promptly and felt any delay in attending to them would trigger tempers.
Both parties, (Patients and Medics) may have valid concerns it would take the two to come to terms by meeting halfway if medics did the best they could while patients exercised patience.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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