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I wrote Wednesday's article on my blackened foot - which in itself is not important - because it very poignantly signifies the situation of our public health care system. And I am angry. Very, very, boilingly, exploadingly angry for the way this system has "cared" for my dearest and nearest ones. Time and again. 1. Encounter. Maria hospital. A sweet old lady, Ida-mummo, one of the dearest friends I've ever had and who sadly isn't with us any more, had severe food poisoning at the age of 76. She'd had both her hips replaced recently and couldn't get up or down the stairs of her 4th floor home (no elevator). I got her an ambulance at night and she was taken to Maria hospital. I'd told the ambulance people, as well as Maria's personnel, that I am her next of kin and I should be informed if there's any change in her condition. I'd given everybody - the ambulance & Maria people - my contact info and made them promise to call me if there was any change, even in the middle of the night. I also told them that she had never been able to leave her home and manage the stairs after her hip surgeries and could therefore (in addition to her weakened state) not be dismissed alone. I made sure that the reluctant receptionist wrote this to her file. At Maria they threw me out as nighttime wasn't visiting hours. After that they put Ida-mummo to lay down in the crowded corridor, next to semi-aggressive and out-of-it alcoholics who frightened her. She saw a doctor once, and without any treatment this person just dismissed her. She hadn't even been able to hold in water for 18 hours and was barely coherent. They rolled her into a taxi in a wheelchair - she couldn't walk - and sent her home in her thin pyjamas. Without shoes. Without a coat. Without home keys. Without phone. Without calling me. It was -19 degrees outside that night. Taxi had just dropped her outside her building and left. When I called the hospital at 8 AM nobody knew where she was. After and hour they found out that she'd been dismissed at night. Why they hadn't called me, as agreed, well... They didn't really care. Ida didn't answer her phone at home. I thought she had died outside in the cold. I rushed over - I had her keyes - to find her in her bed. She couldn't move anymore to get to the phone due to her - I'd say heroic - efforts at night. She'd waited outside in the cold, barefoot, for what felt like a very long time. Then some neighbour had happened to come home in the wee hours of the morning, let her in and use his phone to call the maintenance company to come and open her home door. Then the gutsy lady had climbed up the four floors, alone and in total darkness - she didn't even have her glasses so she couldn't find the light switch. By the way, after the hip operations, this was the only time she managed to climb the stairs, during the rest of her life. So it was rather lucky she didn't fall, hurt or kill herself, considering her weak condition and total darkness. I couldn't stop crying when I finally found her. And my brave little Ida-mummo was so concerned that she'd gotten me worried, trying to get up to fix us a bit of tea and some kettukarkki (kinda marmalade), our shared favorite weakness... That time we registered a formal complaint. And after a lot of hiccups the head of Maria hospital finally issued a formal apology. We were just relieved that she was alive. Not because but despite this hospital. 2. Encounter. Maria hospital. My first love,  my ex-fiancé with whom we remained good friends, got severe stomach pain in the middle of the night.  Being an man's man, a guy's guy, he only reached out for some help at the point when the pain was unbearable. He called me to come for help - refusing an ambulance - so I rushed over. He was curled up in hot shower, seemingly in shock, could barely speak and refused to get up or let go of the shower. I should have called an ambulance but I was younger and so used to respecting him-as he had always respected what was important to me. I half carried the 195 cm basketball player into a taxi and off to the butcher's - sorry, Maria hospital - we went. He was too delirious to even remember his social security number or address at the reception, but this didn't bother the receptionist. She told us that the queue would last all night, and that's it. They wouldn't arrange anyone to see him earlier, and before the doctor's rounds he couldn't have anything for the pain either. We sat there for eight hours. Without anyone doing anything to help him. Well, I sat with tears rolling down my eyes and my friend was starting to have dyskinesia to distract him from his pain. At the point when he started to hurt himself (banging his head etc.) they moved us a bit out of the way so his pain wouldn't bother the other patients that badly. I'd seen this guy dislocate a member and break a bone, and be totally cool about it. So before he went into this state, I knew it was real. He couln't ask or get himself any help, and nobody would listen to me. It was one of the most awful nights of my life. With the morning light the pain suddenly disappeared. My friend refused to stay there for a second longer so I took him to his home. Later we found out that his problem had been gallstones - one of the most painful conditions - and he should have been operated immediately. Well, before he finally WAS operated, we endured another similar all-night episode at Maria, resulting in a severe internal infection and urgent surgery (when the doctor after 6 hours of waiting finally looked at him, he was rushed into the OR and operated within 5 minutes). When all this happened, I was a student, broke, inexperienced and without a dime to my name. No credit card, a few coins of cash. I had no choice but to seek help from the public sector if my loved ones needed help. And then a few years later, to top it all... To the great amusement of my ex-fiancé, I fell in love with a man who had been diagnosed with.... gallstones. That could cause a severe infection any time and hence needed to be removed asap. On an unrelated note... My ex-fiancé made me promise to require a full medical check-up from any potential boyfriend from here to eternity, with special focus on gallstones... Episode 3. Private hospital. I'm a strong woman but those nights at Maria are too much for me to bear ever again. Seeing a loved one in extreme pain and not being able to do one damn thing to help. Feeling that the medical personnel just don't care. I understand that they are overwhelmed and understaffed but the treatment that we got there - every time - was stripped from all compassion or professional consideration beyond standard rules. So. A new strategy was needed to survive gallstones this time. My boyfriend was from abroad and his country's currency was too weak to pay for any operation. In his country, the medical system was unreliable, at best. After all these educational experiences in the world of gallstones, I knew that if his gallstones got stuck and caused a life-threatning infection, they would - eventually  - have to operate him at Maria. Theoretically at least, they shouldn't let a person die in their queue. And the cost of an operation at a public hospital I could cover even with my studen'ts income. But my faith in that hospital at this point was so low, that I rather took a maximum student loan, my first ever, to get us treatment at a real hospital.  Still, it wasn't quite enough. As I didn't own anything and had only a tiny part-time income, no other loans were possible. So I pawned all my jewellery. With that, we got my man fixed, with no unnecessary pain, no unnecessary infections, just good, I dare to say, normal, professional hospital care. I paid back my student loans as soon as I graduated. The jewellery - some of it given to me by my dear father who isn't with us anymore - was all lost. Still. I feel I had no choice. 4. Example. Public vs. Private Before the adventures at Maria hospital, Ida-mummo had severe hip problems. She couldn't move anymore, even within her own home. We went to (the so-called) terveyskeskus asking for a chance to get to a hip replacement surgery. The doctor told Ida that she was plain too old to have this operation anymore. He even mentioned that she couldn't be expected to live very long anymore, so an operation would be a waste of society's money. Our bright and cheerful Ida-mummo was understandably very down after this meeting, and felt that there's nothing left for her but to die. I and her family forced her to get a second opinion from the private sector. I booked her an appointment with one of the leading surgeons in the field. He was magnificent. Straightforward, honest, with a loud laughter and a sense of humor. He said that Ida was so bright and brilliant that she definitely deserved to be able to move and live a full life. They still made a thorough health check up, which she passed with flying colors. Within two weeks she'd been operated and was back at home. She walked (for the first time in almost a year) the next day after the operation. The surgeon personally followed her recovery on daily bases. Often when I came to visit I could hear their laughter and jokes all the way down the corridor. For Ida-mummo, getting back her ability to walk was life-altering. But equally important was being treated as a human being. She came back from the hospital having restored not only her ability to move, but her damaged sense of self-worth. That the doctor at the terveyskesus had so successfully crushed. Encounter 5. The unbearable irony of the public sector. Lastly. After a couple of years Ida's other hip gave in. Against her will, she still showed it at the local arvauskeskus. They immediately gave her an appointment for a hip replacement surgery. We politely inquired how this operation was possible now, as two years earlier she had been too old for it. Well. The standard age limits for this operation had been changed. Two years ago Ida-mummo had spent her entire - I don't exaggerate - her entire life savings for the very same operation that she could have for free, a few years after. I have many, many more stories like this. And I'm not even going to go into my dear father's treatment, which at some stages, in my opinion, would qualify as torture. I know that some politicians read my blog. If you are out there, please give this a thought. It's as simple as comparing for example Matti Vanhanen's widely publicised experiences with his gallstones, and the story of a student in the same situation. Fair? Equal? Functioning? Would you trust your family members with this system? I won't. Ever again. Surely there are good and well-functioning public health care centers and hospitals as well. But there are stories like these, too. Too many of them. Too much totally unnecessary human suffering due to bureaucratic, impersonal,  inflexible standard practices where nobody takes overall responsibility of the patient's situation, leading to (at times total) indifference of the patient's physical pain and suffering, his actual needs and individual situation. ~*'*~

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