Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is it just me?

It seems once a week I have some incident that makes me realise how screwed up our state and government systems are. I am sure this happens to people in all the many countries of the world. But this is my country so I get to want to kick something (someone) South African every once in awhile in frustration.

Yesterday when I was on my way back to the office from a lunch break stroll (i.e. sans money, phone, anything to tempt me into spending more of my finances), I walked past a poor guy with one of his forearms covered in thick fresh blood. I just stopped at stared.

He looked at me. I look at him completely confused. What the hell are you doing just meandering about with a wound like that babes, or did it escape your attention.

Please help me madam.

Oh sure, I’ll just pull some first aid kit out of my here slip-on shoe?!?!?

I can’t. Just go to that shop there. They’ll have to help. Or no, wait, the clinic!!! There’s a clinic about a block from here.

But he’d been to the clinic. It is a private clinic, which means if you don’t have medical aid or cash up front, you can just breathe your last right there in the foyer and they’ll ask you to be quiet & move to a corner out of the way please. (I know this full well as it nearly happened to my cousin once).

You understand their point. They can’t do charity cases for every person who walks into their clinic in need of dire medical assistance but can’t pay. Gawd, that’s 80% of our country probably. They’d be broke within the week.

He needed R90 for them to patch him up.

I can’t tell you how bad the wound was. I am dumb and too sweet in many ways, but I have lasted this long by not too closely approaching completely strange men who are gushing blood from indeterminable wounds. It looked pretty horrific though, and he looked like he was in a lot of pain, there in Jo’burg’s heat wave midday sun.

And he was an immigrant. And no one likes a poor immigrant, gushing blood, in this country. And if he didn’t have R90, it was doubtful he had enough cash to catch public transport to Jo’burg Gen. And I couldn’t even see any of those oh-so-kind taxi drivers letting him anywhere near their reputable vehicles.

What could I do?
Worse yet, what could he do?

All he needed was R90.

But I hope Gauteng Provincial Minister Paul Mashatile enjoyed his R96 000 meals at Auberge Michel.


Anonymous said...

Ah champers - i feel sorry for you. you're walking around feeling, caring and hurting for the world while the rest of us largely ignore it. such is the harsh reality of life. not just in south africa but in the rest of the world too. the fact that you do care is testament to your character and maybe oneday you will use this to become more able to help more of those in need. you're already helping more people in more ways than a lot of others and you should feel good about what you are doing and not let this get you down.

fly said...

hmmm... I remember about 8 years ago on New years eve....my mates and myself were off our heads outside 330 in Durbs....

This guy had the worst head wound I have ever seen....try processing that when you are pilled to the gills...

Like you, I try and help out where I can and I just couldnt deal with this at the time...chrst I was seeing stars and blood was the last thing my brain could comprehend....I walked away and back into the club...I felt so guilty after that...

Revolving Credit said...

While compassion is wonederful the fact remains that this guy needed treatment. If our illustrious department of health is so focussed on primary health care while sacrificing the more expensive procedural and exploritory areas, why are we not geared to handle something this minor. Maybe the private clinics should be forced to handle these cases and bill the goverment an agreed rate. If the dept of health is unable to render these services within a given area then the private providers should pickup the slack and charge the goverment for the service. Sure the Gauteng provincial government could pay for a couple of stitches, for hors d oeuvres.

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks Chews! Sweet of you to say.
I think (hope?) many people do their own small bit in their own small way.

I can't take on & save the world. This I have had to accept. But I can do my bit, try to change systems, advocate issues I feel strongly about. When at school, I used to watch doccies like Special Assignment & promise I'd help in someway. I had to make a choice on which topic(s), and guess I landed up in the HIV field. It is so so easy to become overwhelmed in how much is needed, but as others who are in this game say, you just have to stay focused on making the small changes, or you'll burn out.
(I could keep commenting on this but...)

I don't feel down, just frustrated as I try to figure out some small solutions.

Fly - I don't think we can feel guilty. Easier said than done. We are witness to desperation daily in this country, and we have to be careful about our emotional reactions to this. I think it is a lesson I am still desperately trying to learn, and I often wish I had some practical answers. But then I realise it is for my state to realise the answers, not me.

Rev - that is a bluddy excellent idea!!! If the DoH was actually in tune to what the public think, I'd phone them immediately. It makes perfect sense, I just don't see our fcked-up defensive DoH taking to it. Such a simple solution.

And exactly, the guy's problem looked like something a 2nd year med student could maybe fix up.(Like I said, I didn't take a very close look). And that is what made me realise how screwed up our health system is. Something so simple cannot even be treated within minutes!

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Hippocratic Oath is another casualty.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what I would've done (after Plan A - stop and stare). I don't know. Take him to a chemist? Pay for the bandages and then pay taxi to get him to Wits medical school? I can hardly afford medical cover for myself. I pray to any gods that might be listening not to get sick or get in a car accident.
And I actually have a (semi)paying salary every month. I don't know.

Champagne Heathen said...

Kyk - I guess the old greek didn't take 3rd world countries experiencing corruption, paranoia & defensiveness into consideration! Unfortunately for us.

Koeks - It leads back to my question a few days ago - how involved in someone else's problems do you become. I didn't have any money on me, but I wonder how the guys in the Pharmacy would've treated him, or treated me if I had been the 1 to take him there, or if it had been me who was hurt without money on me at that moment & wanting some med attention. Hmmmm. Makes you think.

Anonymous said...

Aaargh! That's just awful. And so few people actually stop or care.
I've never understood how the private clinics and people who work in them can be so callous as to turn someone like this away. It confuses me no end too.

Champagne Heathen said...

I think that eventually they realise how impossible the situation is, and what it would mean by treating every single half dying person who came in through their doors begging for help. But they probably have to suppress a lot of guilt and emotions.

Dave said...

So what did you do??

Did you tell him to wait at your office while you called an ambulance. Netcare 911 have an obligation to arrive, if he doesn;t have med aid they take him to a government hospital.

Champagne Heathen said...

I did bugger all. We both just kind of stared at each other at a loss, and then he started to move on. I wasn't at all near my office at that time, with no phone or money, so I was trying to work out what options I had & was coming up with nothing.

He was walking back in the vague direction of more people, shops & the clinic so I was hoping that he'd find a more clued up person, or go back to the clinic and stage a sit-in protest. You get good at that in these parts....hoping the next guy will have a solution. But everyone is hoping that from the next guy!

Where were all you guys yesterday with these ideas?

My title's meant to mean - is it just me who once a week comes across such stories?? And if so, why on earth cause I'm not the one with any smart ideas on how to solve them! I barely know the systems yet myself!

Dolce said...

Flip, Champers. And, sadly, it's not just you. A close friend was heamoraging and was rejected from a clinic because she didn't have the cash on her to pay. We were handing over our car keys, our wallets, everything. And she CLEARLY had the money, but they just let her bleed. What the fuck hope does the man on the street have.

Anonymous said...

Trust me , in this day and age you doing good! A whole better than most. Truth is sometimes there are limits as to how much we can help.From other postings I have read here you push those limits. Not enough do.

Champagne Heathen said...

Dolce - wow, that's hectic. What do you do if you finally get your friend to a hospital, you can see everything around her to help her instantaneously, but can't. That just gets that frustrated feeling back into me.

It's similar to my cousin, who couldn't breathe & apparently his friends had my uncle on the phone begging the nurse to help him, and that they had med aid. But she needed faxed proof or something 1st.

Anon - thanks so much for that comment!! I hope that at least I raise the issues in people's minds, that other fellow South Africans face daily. And I hope that will cause inspiration along the way.

I am growing very weary of the tightening limits of this system.

Peas on Toast said...

Wow that is horrific, it makes me so mad!
You poor thing Champers, so tell us the rest, what happened after that??

It makes me so mad, especially when the Auberge Michel is included in the deliveration of funds. Fuck. I probably would've stated crying.

Anonymous said...

Totally on your page champers...I walk around the 'Gtown' & feel so, so sad when I see the streetkids & the poor people struggling to survive the day!

It's so difficult, esp here in sunny SA! I mean, you can help one or two people but not the entire lot, that's the government's thing & as far as I'm concerned, they're totally & utterly up to shit! It's embarassing!?!

Our domestic worker can't even afford to pay her son's school fees, which is R100 for the entire year...so what we do if help her & give her that cash to pay for his education. It's not fair, all she wants to do is go to nursing school in PE but can't afford it cos of her dismal predicament & the fact that the government doesn't provide an education system that supports individual's like her who really want to go to school & actually make something of themselves. It's heartwrenching...& what makes it worse is that you get rich little snobs at uni who fail the year cos they been drinking too much or just having a good time...taking advantage of a lucky situation! It actually makes me sick the way the world runs!

I feel your pain dude!

Champagne Heathen said...

Peas - I had to make a call, and I decided this wasn't my situation to get involved in. I walked away feeling terrible, frustrated and useless. I think as other people have commented here, in a country of desperation, one has to choose who you can help, and hope that the other guys find a solution for themselves. It is up to the state to gradually improve the lot of all citizens, but I am often confused as to where the state is when I come across such simple screwed up cases!!

Kabs - we had a few lecturers who constantly reminded us that 60% of our varsity fees are subsidised by taxpayers' money. Tell those chicks to stop wasting my money thanks!!!!!!!

You really have to be determined & fight your butt off in some situations. I have a friend who goes to amazing extreme lengths to help township kids fill out varsity applications, register at the beginning of the year, help them get loans and FIGHT the contradictions of the educational bureuacracy - you can only register if you have a few thousand rands, so you need a loan. But you can only get a student loan if you are registered. ????? Where is the fcking sense????? Last year she did a sit-in at the one office until they sorted the problem out. But then they said they were pulling strings for "her" kids. What about all the other ambitious poor kids???? (YOu got me started again....!)

Anonymous said...

whoops...my humble apologies...actually strike that, we need people to actually stand up & say 'Fuck this bullshit Mr President, it's time you did something fucking constructive around here!'

Oh pleassssse can I do it! I can't think of anything better than actually telling the dude & all his dudes below him that they need to stop sticking their fingers up their bottoms & rather do something about something!

Champagne Heathen said...

Kabs, you definitely have my blessing. Us public really do need to start shouting more and demanding accountability from our government. Some guys & dept. are going great things, but we are allowing so so many to get away with corruption, laziness, incompetence, etc. If they worked in the private sector they would've been fired ages ago.

We need to make them realise that a job in government means you need to work your butt off in this country, until all problems are solved, rather than this being a tax-payed free ride!