Hospital bedside tales


ometimes the world is just as big as where it takes you. Recently, it took me to the extents of a hospital ward. For two painful weeks,I frequented a public referral hospital, joining family in taking care of a loved one.

May the soul of this loved one rest in peace.

Beyond the loss of the loved one, I choose to look at the hospital stay as a chance I had to take lessons on both the love and predicaments that dwell in the wards each passing day.

For starters, nothing beats family and friendship. The hospital ward is one small but complicated world. Therefore, to have relatives and friends from all over the place come and give hope to the guardian by the bedside is a great relief.

I, therefore, take this opportunity to decorate with special honour those who make time to visit the sick and hold the guardian’s hand in prayer.

The hospital ward is a daunting place, even more in a public hospital.Each bed is a unique territory with own culture and politics. The little resources available for everyone are a steady source for conflict; when you want a healthcare giver to look at your patient’s malfunctioning oxygen supplementing equipment, the neighbour wants the same to attend to their patient’s ‘more serious’ problem. It is a stay that tests your patience and social resolve.

The good caregivers are angels who approach their job with empathy. They treat patients and guardians with love and understanding.

The others are probably in the wards for lack of alternatives. At anysmall opportunity, they pour out all their frustrations on patients.

‘Osanditopetsa,’ they carelessly say.

Yoked by such, it hurts to see guardians, frozen by ‘fear of repercussions’, failing to take up such cases with right authorities.

Then you have guards manning entrances to the main building or wards. Much as you would appreciate their harsh working environment where some visitors and guardians regrettably treat them like rubbish, there is so much the guards need to improve on.

The first and foremost is communication and presentation. The other day, one guardwas casually gnawing at a green mango and belittlingly speaking to guardians disturbed by the condition of their patients.

You can report such guards to the authorities in charge of the wards. But sometimes you get the impression the guards and their companies are protected by an invisible hand which those in charge of the wards cannot dare fight.

The ward is also a big market place. Junior hospital staff, in uniform, runs the monopoly of sales. You have them roaming the wards selling all sorts of items — from food, plastic cups, basins, towels and soap.

For patients and guardians grounded in the ward, the convenience that comes with such trade is no point of discussion. However, one biggest frustration about the trade is its having no fixed times.

It irritates that at a time your patient is about to get a hard-to-come-by dose of sleep, here comes this lady, with a plastic basin clamped under her one armpit, advertising her merchandise on top of her voice.

She is selling deep fried chicken pieces.

As the woman peels off the plastic bag she has for a lid, she goes more noisy:

“Mgwedezeiwe!Asankhenawo,ayiwalekwawo!” [wake your patient up. Have him make his pick and forget his hospital discomforts].

Questions start to well down my spine. Where is this food prepared, and under whose watch? When was it prepared? Is it in line with the patient’s nutritional demands? Is such trade allowed in hospital wards? n

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