Being of a certain vintage, I can well remember visits to Peel Hospital out there in the woods near Clovenfords.
I can also recall my sense of wonder at the bright new Borders General Hospital when it finally opened in 1988, promising a bright new future for hospital treatment in the region. The BGH is now a major employer in the area with around 1,000 people on the payroll, offering jobs with a better level of security than traditional and modern industries which, over the years, have been decimated by the strange and nasty practice of being flogged off to foreigners who strip out what they want for their own companies, then bin the rest, workforce included.
That promise of medical excellence was delivered in spades, but times have changed and now the BGH is already beginning to show its age. We had 40 years from Peel Hospital, the last 10 of which were a struggle to keep it going until the new hospital came on stream. The BGH now has around half that figure on the clock, so it might be reasonable to expect the planners to work on its replacement, or at least a substantial makeover.
At the time of opening, the BGH was up-to-date in all aspects of medicine. I am confident it has continued thus as new procedures and innovations moved in to improve the service. However, it might be reasonable to enquire if the basic hospital structure is still adequate – i.e. big enough for the task and for how much longer?
I regret to inform my reader that over the last couple of years my health attendances at BGH have increased to a point where I feel as if I have a half share in the place, my diary being well sprinkled with a series of appointments for various checks, procedures and therapies, which means I get to meet a fair number of the staff.
I make a point of never trying to park anywhere else than the new overflow car park adjacent to the previous overflow car park, if you follow my drift. The walk to the main building is always pleasant and I avoid that pointless practice of endlessly driving round and round the chock-full main car parks seeking some obscure nook where I might leave my car.
Once inside, the hospital is a bustling place, with people everywhere, all apparently intent on their own tasks. At visiting times it can become almost chaotic in the main areas, and I sometimes wonder what the airborne bug count in areas of high people density is. I am assured that nobody, repeat nobody, gets in and out of the place without emitting or ingesting a stiff cocktail of bacteria, just as in any other place of public resort.
Now here we come to the serious bit. Recent inspections of the BGH for matters concerning infection control have cast up a few serious problems. Fair enough, most of them have already been addressed, but because of the modern trend towards knowing every tiny detail of everything, those with a manic desire to stir up trouble have seized on the report as an excuse to bray their views in public.
Yes, OK, we accept that in some areas the BGH has been given the belt, but it is all too easy to read bad things into the facts and figures.
Inspectors are instinctively heavy on finding fault and light with praise, not good news for the small army of staff faced with the task of controlling infections in a scenario tailor-made for bugs to flourish. For example, I strongly suspect a radical reduction in visitor access might help, as would a move towards reducing the amount of time us oiks spend in the place as patients.
My last stay at the BGH was just two nights and that suited me fine. I have always had a deep sympathy for those who endure hospital stays that run into weeks, often longer, but find comfort in the knowledge that it is in everyone’s best interest to be discharged as soon as practicable.
I finish with a stern admonition to the finger pokers and fault finders.
Whatever you find wrong with the BGH, you should never allow yourselves the indulgence of sticking it to the people who actually do the work – in most instances they are following instructions as best they can and often in very trying circumstances. And, finally, if you really wish to vaunt your opinions, in fairness you should maybe allow inspection of your own bathroom and the interior of your fridge.