Gratitude for our health service

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As a hospital chaplain, I get a chance to see on a regular basis, the ongoing stresses and strains within the healthcare system.

It is virtually impossible to fully fund such an organisation which has to deal with a population which is getting older and older. As our lifespan increases, so too does our need for medical support.

Who would wish to be a politician trying to balance the books?

I regularly see staff doing their utmost to bring care and healing in often trying circumstances but how often do we read articles and hear reports that are critical of our hospitals and their staff members.

They far outweigh the good news stories and the constant criticism is demoralising.

Sitting outside the Intensive Care Unit with a family waiting for news of results is a chastening experience.

Hearing a family’s praise for the efforts of the staff working tirelessly for their loved one is something that goes unreported.

It won’t make the headlines, but it happens every day in every ward where staff members of whatever grade or discipline do their level best in often very stressful situations.

I remember being called to sit with a young husband while his wife was in theatre. The outlook was bleak.

As I sat there, I tried to imagine what life was going to be like for his children if she didn’t survive.

By lunch time, I was able to visit her.

She was enjoying a light snack, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Later that day, I met the surgeon who had performed a miracle and told him what a hero he was.

He was a little embarrassed by my effusive praise, but in doing his job, that family will never forget him.

That is just one episode I observed, and many, many such episodes take place every day.

I have also observed abusive patients, ungrateful and cantankerous patients, unruly patients in emergency departments flanked by PSNI officers.

No-shows for hospital appointments cost an estimated £16million last year – that would employ nearly 700 nurses.

Those who have to balance the books and try to staff wards would love to have the luxury of so many extra hands available.

Sometimes issues arise because of the behaviour of patients.

No system is perfect and we shouldn’t shy away from constructive criticism, but we should be thankful and grateful for the healthcare system we have.

May God be with all those who are beginning their shift today and also those they will care for.