Friday, November 19, 2010


The letter looked official – from Capital and Coast District Health Board. A new appointment or suggestion? No! It was a questionnaire, to be filled in and forwarded to an Auckland company for processing.

It was a yes/no five point scale ranking questionnaire. About visiting outpatients at the public hospital. Easily filled in. And a waste of time.

The last visit was great. Anne and I knew the ropes. The specialist was on time. She dealt with me well and quickly. We departed happy.

Other visits have been rugged. Sometimes through no fault of the staff or the system. Other times because someone has fluffed an appointment time or an emergency has arisen. At all times staff have been courteous, even though in some instances harassed.

It’s impossible – well maybe incredibly difficult – to generalise.

In some visits I see several people. Some are helpful, some go out of their way to assist, others appear to be going through the motions. Again, it’s hard to generalise.

I found offensive the question ‘degree to which your condition has improved as much as expected’. My disease they tell me is incurable. So how the hell can it improve? Indeed, the question borders on the obscene.

This visit I saw the neurology specialist and no one else. The previous visit was to see cardiology. A technician checked my pacemaker, competently. Whereas in respiratory visits I see radiology, (for an X-ray), a nurse (for a blood test), technicians for my machine and the specialist who is excellent at explanation and advice. Indeed I look forward to meeting him twice a year

There is a question about my confidence in the skill of the provider. I might have feelings but I have no capacity to make a judgement. I rely upon the system to keep charlatans out.

There is a question about comfort. Waiting rooms are waiting rooms. The larger they are the more impersonal they are. They’re clean and respectable and all I ask is a chair with arms that I can lever myself up from. I dislike commercial radio burbling in the background. When I've complained I've been told others like it.

I understand the desire for feedback. But the design and processing of this questionnaire has a cost. I wonder how many hip operations to take an example at random could be met by that same expenditure.

And to what purpose? To enable the Miniser of Health to rise to his/her feet in Parliament and ponderously tell the nation that the level of satisfaction is such and such? Which really tells you little.

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