My 2016 highlight

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Let’s face it, 2016 dashed many of our aspirations. We experienced swathes of celebrity deaths, the decision to Brexit and a new leader elected to run the “free world”. But I will always remember that 2016 was the year I saw world-renowned economist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus take to the stage.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, according to Newton’s third law of physics. Can the same be said of thought patterns? Could thinking opposite solve some of the planet’s greatest challenges?

Engaging an opposite mindset is at the heart of Yunus’ business, the Grameen Bank (GB), and his pioneering work in the field of microcredit. The economist won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for proving that lending money to the poor to run their own micro-businesses can transform lives.

Yunus’ own awakening came in 1974 when, as a Bangladeshi economist at Chittagong University, he took his students on a field trip to a remote village. When he met a bamboo-stool seller who was forced to pay back lenders at an interest rate as high as 10% each week, leaving her with pitiful profits, he realised that the kind of economics he taught was fundamentally wrong. Against the advice of banks and government, Yunus arranged microloans at market interest rates and in 1983 formed the GB – “village bank” – founded on principles of trust instead of so-called collateral.

Yunus’ first battle was with other banks. “Bankers told me that lending to the poor was absurd. They said, ‘Banking is a process in which you lend money to people who need it’. But I replied, ‘You lend money to people who already have lots of money but you don’t lend money to people who have nothing’.”

Yunus learnt how conventional banks went about their business – and then he did the opposite. “I created a bank that was almost the mirror image of the traditional bank. They go to the rich, we go to the poor. They choose cities, we choose remote villages. They focus on men, we focus on women.”

And it worked. By 2015 in Bangladesh, GB had 2,568 branches with 21,751 staff serving 8.81 million borrowers in 81,392 villages. Of the borrowers today, 97% are women. The loans are paid back at a higher recovery rate (97%) than any other banking system.

Yunus is often referred to as the “world’s banker to the poor”, but has anyone ever stopped to call a private wealth manager the “world’s banker to the rich”? The value in thinking opposite and what happens when you do is the gauntlet that Yunus has thrown down – something I plan to remember in 2017.

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‘Back’ in the game

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This post is purely a quote from a letter of complaint I sent shortly after undergoing my third spine operation (OLIF Fusion).

 “My second complaint is about the staff working on the evening Friday 25 January. Towards the early hours of the morning I ran out of my morphine pump. I pressed the nurse bell and waited 20 minutes, the nurse came in, turned my bell off and said she could not replace the morphine alone but would return soon. I waited for over three hours for the morphine to be replaced and in that time I pressed the nurse bell five times.

I pressed the nurse bell to go to the toilet. Two nurses arrived, and they moaned – I would not try a bed pan. You mention that ward staff are advised on how to manage patients care after spine surgery, however on more than three occasions I was asked to use a bed pan, for ease of the nurses, rather than a commode. I refused the bedpan as it would have come into direct contact with my wound (and my drain), after already having two spine surgeries, I knew that I needed to remain flat; tilting my pelvis would have put me in clinical jeopardy. I would like to confirm that I did not want a catheter and I was happy using the commode, the biggest problem I faced was nurses attending promptly and offering me a safe and dignified way to release myself. During my time in hospital I waited for relatives to visit and I relieved myself in a camping toilet pan.

The nurses were unaware of the type of surgery I had received. When they helped me from the bed to the commode they did not hold my weight and I could not hold myself up, so they dropped me on the floor. It was surreal to, one day after having major surgery, be dropped on the floor. I screamed out in pain and another nurse entered the room, they placed me on the commode. I was cold, sobbing and trying to relieve myself.  They showed great care by leaving me for ten minutes sitting on the commode. I had no choice but to wait as I could not reach the bell. They returned, placed me in bed and continued their private conversation.  The gist of their conversation: they wanted me to have a catheter, as it would have been easier on their backs not to have to lift me onto the commode again. How ironic, back pain.  I was told to stop crying.  I was prettified to be helped to the toilet again. I called my fiance and he arrived at 6.10 am and stayed with me. I finally received my pain relief at 8.00 am I could not reach any water or any of my things as the night staff had moved them out of reach for a person bed bound.

Other problems included:

  • During the medication rounds I was given Tramadol, which I refused to take as I was linked up to the PCA morphine pump. It would have been over my opium dose allowance. The nurse was embarrassed when I pointed this out.
  • Generally, the staff did not know what surgery I had received, so they asked me to use the bed pan, ‘sit up’ and pulled on my drain. A simple scribble on the white board – perhaps my name and my surgery type – would have solved the problem.
  • I wasn’t given any water during my stay. The water jug was left by the sink, in the far corner of my room, which I could not reach, being bed bound. My table was often moved away, and not moved back so I could not reach it. 
  • On the whole, my nurse bell was not answered and my relatives had to find a nurse to get me help.
  • Nurses raised my head without asking (medically I was not to raise it above 45 degrees).

I hope these problems will be addressed as I would hate for this level of care to continue. It was a truly awful experience.”

When you’re contending with this (see picture), you don’t want to have to write a letter, you don’t want to worry that you’ll be dropped on the floor a day after having spine surgery, and you don’t want to be humiliated by hospital staff, no one would.Back

It angers me that the only 14 UK hospitals were placed under investigation by the government.  Every hospital offering care should be bench-marked against the best and the worst.  All UK hospitals should receive the same standards to be measured by.  That’s what regulation’s for, even the banking system is catching on.  The NHS is a great service, but without (enough) trained staff showing empathy and common sense, patients will always suffer. I hope that I don’t need more surgery, and for anything that isn’t back-related, there’s always private.

Picture citation: Hospital corridor, in gray Julie Kertesz, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0