Ill health doesn't take a holiday


Last updated 11:41 10/01/2014
Pat Veltkamp Smith
Columnist Pat Veltkamp Smith was Southland Times women's editor until 1997 and is a former president of the Southland Justices of the Peace Association.

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OPINION: T here could have been murder and mayhem in any carriage and I am not thinking the Orient Express, just our Southerner and the like on which the safety alarms carry such dire warnings as to prevent anyone setting them off lightly.

Same thing with Southland Hospital's A and E deparment.

If you think of hardy annual newspaper stories, then Southland Hospital's A and E moans would take the biscuit.

Keep away, they cry, unless you have been injured at rugby or on a ski slope, unless you can show blood or bone or preferably both, are under 3 years of age or are due to expire, in which case do so quietly.

Patients are castigated in print for unnecessary visits, not having seen GPs or the famed after hours service.

Well take this:

December 30 was not a public holiday, not a stat day, nothing special - except that it fell between Christmas and New Year's, part of a dangerous annual medical closedown.

Medical centres were closed (back January 6 was their cheery message), individual doctors, too. And the famed after-hours service had on their answerphone: Don't bother us today, we are open on statutory days or afterhours; like, ring back tonight and you might get an appointment at 9pm. And this at 9am.

There were health line and health link numbers to phone. They said see your doctor or phone 111 to send an ambulance which takes you to hospital A and E.

Sure. Right. Great. Just what we don't need.

More than one family went through this.

The first was in Dunedin, before lunch time, welcomed into a medical centre which they'd never visited before, seen by a doctor, given a script that was filled by a nearby pharmacy, and all was well, heading home again by 1pm.

The second woman, who knew what she needed, studied supermarket tea shelves to find one which was a diuretic, went home to Centre St, made a cup of tea and was on the loo and the mend within the hour.

It is good that people don't panic, find a way around, manage without assorted professionals, without the much vaunted advisory services like CAB and health line.

But should they really have to?

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- The Southland Times


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