The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

TMIS Editorial: The angels at the A&E Department

Sunday, 19 June 2022, 11:00 Last update: about 7 days ago

Many times editorials tend to focus on negative aspects.

They are used by newspapers to highlight shortcomings, put politicians on the spot, criticise decisions taken, and demand that corrective action is taken when things go wrong.

Few are the occasions that leaders, as they are also known, are used to focus on positive matters. It is a deficiency that needs to be rectified.

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Our intention today is to underline the important work that is carried out by the staff at the Accident and Emergency Department at Mater Dei Hospital. This includes the doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, the ambulance drivers, radiographers, blood analysts and all other healthcare professionals who day after day see to the medical needs of people who require their assistance.

Often they are under the spotlight for the wrong reasons, such as when someone complains that they took too long to be seen to. But few seem to realise the amount of work that is carried out by these people.

All patients believe that they deserve to be given priority, that the tests they need should be first on the list, and that their ailment is the “worst” when compared to that of other patients. Nobody likes being in hospital, that’s understood.

But what is less appreciated is that an A&E Department does not work on a first come first served basis. There are emergencies that are worse than others, and that is why there is a triage process that establishes the order of treatment. A person suffering from a heart attack needs attention before another who is complaining of a twisted toe. Here we take the opportunity to say that people should not go to the A&E Department unnecessarily.

It is not an easy job for anyone who works at this department. And it’s not only because of the long hours, many of which are spent on their feet, or the fact that they are surrounded by people in difficulty, in pain and in psychological distress.

Let us remember that decisions must be taken, sometimes in seconds. Let us remember that these decisions are about a person’s health, and a wrong choice could have serious consequences.

When there’s a spelling mistake in a headline, the most devastating result is public embarrassment for the newspaper. But when the wrong medicine is prescribed, or the wrong dose of that medicine is given, that error could potentially be fatal. That’s the difference between our mistakes, and theirs.

It is said that first responders and people working in an A&E Department get used to the sight of people seriously hurt, in anguish, and at times close to dying. In spite of every effort made, some of these cannot be saved. Yet in spite of the “familiarity” of such situations, dealing with emergencies on a regular basis takes its toll too, especially on busy days. It must be very hard for a doctor or a nurse to go back home when a patient is lost.

On most occasions, the workers at the A&E Department carry out their duties with a smile and a kind word. They know that the people in their care do not want to be there, and so they try to lighten the mood. And, like all of us, they have their bad moods too so if you, as a patient or a relative accompanying one, come across them when this happens try not to make things worse. You’re the one who needs them.

There are then times when emergency staff needs to be called in on what should be their days off when there is what is known as a crisis, that is when an accident could lead to multiple people needing treatment. The last time it happened was when the fireworks factory in the limits of Mosta exploded with 11 people on site.

Doctors and nurses (and all the rest) have to have a seamless relationship. All of them have a role to play, and that is why they need each other. In a hospital, including in an A&E Department, one profession cannot work without the other.

It is therefore hard to understand why their representatives, the unions, are at times at loggerheads with each other, as happened this past week on claims made by the nurses’ union, the MUMN, that the capping on doctors’ pensions had been lifted, something which was denied first by the doctors’ union, MAM, and later by the government. This confrontation at union level is thankfully not seen at the hospital, where there is great cooperation for the benefit of all the patients.

We should all be grateful for what doctors, nurses and the rest of the staff at the A&E Department do for all of us.

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