I have just come back from spending 2 nights at a hospital in Bangkok and the most interesting thing about my stay there was that I was not a patient. My partner was admitted and given a private room in which there was a couch on which I slept so I could be with her while she was there. It was not the perfect bed, but the nurses brought a pillow and a blanket and tried to make me as comfortable as they could.
Contrast this with several weeks last year, when my mother was in hospital in Cape Town – a very expensive private hospital. That difficult time was made so much more terrible by the rules of the hospital and the attitude of the staff that visitors are a burden to prevented at all costs. Apart from strict visiting hours allowing about 2-3 hours of contact every day at their convenience, and a restriction on the number of people allowed in at any given time, it always felt like we had to fight for every single minute we wanted to spend with our sick family member.
Beyond the very clear research that links interpersonal contact with improved health results, it made me think about customer focus, and who each of these hospitals was actually trying to serve. In my own experience of both those situations, I automatically felt like the Thai hospital was trying to cater not only to my partners needs, but my own as a family member. Visiting the South African hospital, I was made to feel like an inconvenience in the technical process of medical care.
While this is not a reflection on any individual at these hospitals, as even in South Africa, many staff were friendly and helpful, it made me rather sad for all the people in the many countries like South Africa who, during the most traumatic and difficult moments of their lives are not even treated like the paying customers they are.
I know that this is just one perspective based on my personal experience and I would really love to hear from others, especially those in the medical profession, as I am sure I do not have to whole picture.