Cracking Up

The transition process is very much about relocalizing activities of all kinds so as to strengthen local resilience, thereby enabling local communities to cope better with some of the stresses that Peak Oil (PO) and Global Warming (GW) will increasingly put us under. One aspect that has come more sharply into focus for me is healthcare.
Having spent the last few weeks mostly in a wheelchair as a result of fracturing my hip, I have had some time to think about some aspects of the health care available in Hong Kong. I live in Mui Wo on Lantau Island, the largest of HK’s islands, and one of the problems we face is the fact that there are no X-ray machines here. Thus when I had my accident I could not be X-rayed locally. How can it be that  that such a fundamental piece of equipment is not available on an island with a large population? I’m also rather surprised that the doctor who saw me on the night of the accident – plus another three doctors who saw me during the following three weeks – did not insist on me having an X-ray. In fact, I was asked if I thought my hip was broken and if I wanted to go for an X-ray. I can accept that it might be very difficult to ascertain whether a bone is fractured if you have no X-ray machine to check it, and I’m all for consulting the patient as to what their view is, but surely there is no excuse for a doctor being unable to decide whether an X-ray is needed. Consequently, my hip was not X-rayed until I visited a physiotherapist at the Professional Teacher’s Union (PTU) in Wan Chai on HK Island. I had been hobbling around on crutches for a week or two, putting some weight on my leg, but it didn’t seem to be getting any better so I went to the physiotherapist for help. The PTU did have an X-ray machine and they soon packed me off to hospital when they realised the hip was fractured. Why is it that a teacher’s organisation has better healthcare facilities than a government medical clinic? The time I spent on crutches may well have made my condition worse: time will tell.
I then spent just five days in hospital during which time they assessed my condition and decided I could go home in a wheelchair as the bone was healing quite well and an operation would not be necessary. While I was in hospital I had no complaints about the medical care I received. However, restoring good health to patients is not just a question of drugs, dressings and doctors’ assessments. Isn’t diet a part of good health care? I am a vegetarian but I seemed to be receiving the same as everyone else minus the meat. The meal was exactly the same for lunch and dinner – pak choi and rice with an unidentifiable milk pudding plus an orange once a day, presumably to prevent us getting scurvy – with porridge to start the day. There was absolutely no variety whatsoever. The only drink available was water – no tea, coffee or fruit juice. This does not constitute a balanced diet, much less an interesting one by any stretch of the imagination. As for our mental health, I was informed that my children would not be allowed into the ward to visit me because of the dangers of infection (for them, supposedly). Although this rule was waived so that they could see me for ten minutes (having spent an hour and a half travelling there from Mui Wo), isn’t this a ridiculous and counter-productive rule to impose upon parents of young children? One of the worst things about being in hospital is of course not being able to see your family. But just to ensure that your sanity was seriously compromised by being in a hospital bed, the ward television was religiously switched on from 11 am until 10.30 pm every day. Thus we were subjected to a diet of mental pap to keep us amused throughout the day. Nobody came around the wards selling newspapers or magazines or snacks and drinks, and the suggestion that there should be internet connections at each bed was greeted with laughter. As if! And, of course, there was nothing like a mobile library visiting the wards. No wonder most of the patients in my ward simply switched themselves off and slept throughout most of the day and night.
The lack of X-ray facilities on Lantau is a disgrace, but the same situation probably prevails on the other islands. In Mui Wo we also have no resident or visiting government physiotherapist except for one who visits only the Old People’s Home once a week, which again seems to be inexcusable. As for a hospital, of course, we have none on the whole of Lantau. Preventive healthcare is essential for all of us, making sure we require the services of medics as infrequently as possible. However, when you do need those services there should be good, basic facilities and expertise available to everyone at reasonable cost without having to travel inordinate distances to get them. If you do need to be hospitalised and there isn’t one nearby, you should at least be able to expect that your psychological and dietary needs will be given as much consideration as is given to the drugs they are continually trying to push onto you.


About transitionsl

I've been an English teacher for the best part of 30 years, teaching in England, Tanzania, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong. I've always been interested in nature and environmental issues, but it was the discovery of Peak Oil about five years ago that galvanised me into trying to help my local community to prepare for what will be a dramatically different world to the one many of us have been used to. I've been helping to run a transition group, following the guidelines created by Rob Hopkins's Transition Movement in the UK. This blog is an attempt to engage in discussion with a wider group of people in Hong Kong on the ways to transition from our current oil dependency to a state of fossil-free local resilience.
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