For patients, patience is the key

  17 August 2022  Star Weekly   

This article was first published in Northern Star Weekly on 18 August 2022.

Written by Christopher Carter, CEO, NWMPHN

Just like everyone, I am sick and tired of the pandemic. We’re all really over it, and over hearing about the flu and monkeypox and Japanese encephalitis and shingles and every other disease the world is currently throwing at us.

It’s little wonder that we’re all starting to feel a bit ragged around the edges.

These health concerns are always on our minds, but for most of us they are not always in our faces. For one section of our community, however, the realities of our current medical demands are the very definition of the workplace.

Being sick of the pandemic doesn’t mean we have to be unkind. It seems clear that we all get better health care if we do what we can to make life less hellish for the people whose job it is to keep us or make us well.

Doctors, nurses and receptionists in our GP clinics and hospitals are the frontline when it comes to keeping us and well, and helping us get better when we fall sick. As well as the ebbs and surges of COVID-19 and seasonal viruses, they have to diagnose, counsel and support adults and children with a wide range of other conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, depression, and broken bones and bruises.

And they have to do it in teams that are perpetually short-staffed due to the same viruses that lay the rest of us low.

This, of course, adds to the difficulties many of us experience when we go to book an appointment. There’s no doubt about it: arranging to see a primary health care professional about pretty much anything can require patience.

So, stressed and worried patients combined with stressed and exhausted GPs, nurses and receptionists sounds like a recipe for conflict and frustration – and, sadly, we’re seeing exactly that play out sometimes in our region.

There have been media reports of GP staff quitting their jobs after being yelled at and threatened by patients. (That’s not just something local, by the way. A recent report in England found that “persistent abuse of doctors compounds the emotional toll on staff, damages morale, and threatens patient safety”.)

There are some simple things we can do to help out. When you turn up at the surgery, wear a mask, maintain social distance and speak respectfully to staff – they know you’re a bit worried, because they are too. And if things take a bit longer than usual, well, that’s just how it is – everywhere – at the moment.

If the matter isn’t urgent, plan ahead to make your appointment.If you have mild respiratory symptoms, consider going to a Respiratory Clinic instead of your GP. Googling locations is easy. It’ll take the pressure off a bit.

And, above all, don’t be mean. Even when you’re wearing a mask, people can see when you smile.