A Few Good Nurses

The dying embers of personal responsibility.

The New York Times reports that a nurse whom an Australian disk jockey tricked into revealing confidential information about Kate Middleton's pregnancy committed suicide.

As pranks go, this one appeared outrageous and obnoxious rather than malicious.  After convincing a hospital nurse who answered the phone this week that they were Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, two Australian radio hosts then tricked another nurse into disclosing medical information about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge, who had been admitted with acute morning sickness.

The call was broadcast on Australian radio; then it went out around the world.

But the stunt took a horrific and unexpected turn on Friday, when the nurse who answered the call, 46-year-old Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead, an apparent suicide.

Kate Middleton knew that she'd be subject to acute worldwide curiosity when she married into the royal family.  Nevertheless, as women often do, she tried to keep people from finding out about her pregnancy before she was ready to announce it.

King Edward VII's Hospital where she was admitted is an exclusive private institution which has served the royal family for many years - not for her the rat-associated operating rooms which serve the lower orders!

Having scored a news scoop by learning that the Duchess was pregnant and broadcasting the fact to their audience, the DJs bragged about their stunt.  Their radio station took them off the air, however, when the nurse whom they'd fooled committed suicide.

The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said:

It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession.

Has Caring Gone Out Of Style?

Think about what actually happened here: the nurse was so ashamed of having been fooled into giving out confidential information about the Royal Family that she committed suicide.  This sort of loyalty and sense of personal responsibility has sadly gone out of style in Britain and in most of the western democracies.

Her level of caring about her responsibilities to her patients is sadly lacking in the rest of the National Health Service.  No less a luminary than England's Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tells us:

“Just look at what has come to light in the last few years: patients left to lie in their own excrement in Stafford Hospital, with members of the public taking soiled sheets home to wash because they didn’t believe the hospital would do it.  The man with dementia who was supposed to be monitored every 15 minutes who managed to leave Pontypool Hospital and drown.  The residents kicked punched, humiliated, dragged by their hair and forced through cold showers at Winterbourne View.  The elderly woman with dementia repeatedly punched and slapped at Ash Court Care Home.  The cancer patient at St George’s, Tooting, who lost a third of his body fluid, desperately ringing the police for help, because staff didn't listen or check his medical records.”

These were not “isolated incidents”, he said, but appeared with such “depressing regularity” that they indicated problems which were in places “part of the fabric”.

There are several reasons why King Edward VII's Hospital is able to keep a high level of dedication in its staff:

  • Management teaches every staff member that they must serve their customers because wealthy sick people can go to other places and the hospital won't get their money.  Ordinary National Health Service patients have no choice when they need medical care.  Sick people are pawns in that they go where they're told and receive whatever treatment the system deigns to give them.  Pleasing or not pleasing patients has no effect on the hospital's income.
  • Management can fire staff who don't measure up.  Employees of the unionized National Health Service, in contrast, can't be fired no matter how badly they behave.  The nurse who first revealed that elderly patients were being left to lie in their own urine was fired for violating patients' privacy.
  • There's no good way to make a government institution operate effectively.  They don't have to serve customers; people have no choice about going to the DMV.   Any unionized government employee knows how to look busy; there's no effective way to catch employees underperforming.

This tragic incident illustrates the difference between caring and uncaring institutions.  Government-run institutions are ultimately uncaring, because there's nothing to force them to be otherwise.

And with Obamacare, all our hospitals will soon be government-run or as close as makes no difference.  Coming soon to a hospital near you!

But look on the bright side: nurses won't be committing suicide for their mistakes.  They'll be so used to making them that it won't matter.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

How crass,

December 19, 2012 12:51 PM

@Harvey - the incident? or the article?

December 19, 2012 3:47 PM

Crass? Incident? Article? Doesn't matter, obamacare is and will be a disaster. Great Britain is simply a prelude to what we'll have.

December 19, 2012 8:29 PM
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