Today’s Editorial February 5: Bureaucracy and health

Although bureaucracy is often frustrating for those trying to deal with various government departments or agencies, it often only causes annoying inconveniences.

However, when it comes to at least one government body in Cayman – the Health Services Authority – there is a level of bureaucracy that goes past inconvenience toward absurd and even dangerous.

The Caymanian Compass recently tried to ascertain whether a certain doctor was still employed with the hospital.

Upon telephoning the hospital, we were first told to leave a message for the doctor. After pressing the issue, we were referred to the public relations officer, but we were told the following in writing:

‘It is not the policy of the HSA to publicly disclose issues relating to the employment and terms and conditions of any member of staff. The HSA like any other organization has rules and policies to which all employees are expected to adhere.

‘These rules, terms and conditions and policies establish clearly defined expectations, obligations and consequences.

‘Within these clearly established guidelines are procedures which the Authority or any employee may follow to resolve any personnel or professional issues and/or disagreements.’

We got all of that for just asking if a doctor was still employed by the hospital. This wasn’t the first time a reporter from the Caymanian Compass has been similarly thwarted by the HSA when trying to merely confirm if someone still worked at the hospital

We then called the main switch board at the hospital and asked for the doctor in question. The operator told us the doctor was no longer with the hospital – apparently she was unaware of the HSA policy referred to above – but when asked how to contact the doctor, the operator referred the matter to the human resources department.

The HR representative said it was hospital policy not to give out information on how to contact a former employee. However, she added that if we contacted the doctor and asked her to contact the hospital to authorise the release of that information, then the HR department could tell us how to contact her. This sort of absurd bureaucracy is like something straight out of Joseph Heller’s classic book Catch-22.

What happens if a patient urgently needs to talk about a particular medical issue with a doctor that has either resigned or been terminated? Will they get the run-around from bureaucrats like we did? The doctor-patient relationship should matter more than the HSA’s desire to keep personnel problems secret, if that is what this nonsense is all about.

Bureaucracy and healthcare don’t mix. The HSA has started some new initiatives that will hopefully right the foundering ship. It would get a good start by eliminating some of its bureaucratic mentality and dealing with its patients, the public and the media an efficient and professional way.

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