Sunday, July 6, 2008

Who Cares?

And you thought Australia's hospital system was bad:
A woman who had waited nearly 24 hours to be seen in a Brooklyn public hospital collapsed, fell face-down on the floor, convulsed and for nearly an hour -- while several hospital staff members looked at her and one staff member even prodded her with her foot -- received no aid. At some point during that time, she died.
More at WaPo and Alternet.

UPDATE: CNN covers the funeral. The lady's name was Esmin Green:
A Jamaican immigrant in New York for more than a decade, Green spent years working at a daycare and other odd jobs to send money back home for her six children.

She suffered emotional problems for which she had previously been hospitalized, friends say. And most recently she had been distressed after losing her job and apartment.

On Sunday, the sight of her lying in a casket was too much for her oldest daughter, Tecia Harrison.

The 31-year-old had to be helped to stand.

Harrison, who lives in Jamaica, had not seen her mother in eight years and she refused to see her mother's last moments on the surveillance video.

"I don't think I have the heart or mind to watch it because that's my mother there," Harrison said earlier to CNN. "That's the woman who gave birth to me 31 years ago."
The Chicago Tribune talks to Dr. Nada Stotland, president of the American Psychiatric Association, who tries to explain the hospital staff's behaviour:
Q. It seems there was a horrific failure of compassion here. How do you understand that?

A. When you see a constant flood of terribly ill and terribly deprived people come into a facility that does not have the means to care for them, day after day, hour after hour, week after week, you have to harden yourself to a certain degree. Because there’s nothing you can do about it.

Imagine what it’s like for these staff, hearing people screaming in pain, crying for help – children, young adults, old people. Some of these staff get post-traumatic stress syndrome, just like soldiers returning from Iraq. Some of them wake up at night remembering the last horrible sight they saw. And some of them adapt by shutting down.

I’m not excusing anything, you understand. But to just point the finger and not realize we have a huge problem here, that doesn’t help anybody...

Q. What solutions are needed?

A. First of all, we need more psychiatric beds, properly staffed with properly trained people... Then, you need ongoing care in the community in locations where people can find it without taking seven forms of transportation in the Chicago winter. And again, be sure these places have enough staff to take care of very sick people. The services we have today are just not sufficient.

Q. What was your personal reaction to what happened to Esmin Green in Brooklyn?

A. It’s heart-wrenching. The sad thing is, we can help these people. We know how. This is absolutely needless for anyone to die for want of care. We’re the richest country in the world. And our first obligation as a society, as far as I’m concerned, is to take care of the people who are least able to take care of themselves.
Like the Iraq War, this small incident holds up a mirror to US society in the early 21st Century. The reflection is not pleasant.

Gabe Pressman cites Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel:
The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.
The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, is one of the richest men on earth. But it's not just the politicians to blame, is it? A million people have died deaths just as horrible, and just as hopelessly ignored as Esmin Green's, in Iraq over the last five years.

Look and learn, America. This is you, like it or not.