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Kate Hawkesby: Public services workers are doing what they can

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Nov 2023, 10:04am
Photo / 123RF
Photo / 123RF

Kate Hawkesby: Public services workers are doing what they can

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Nov 2023, 10:04am

When you think about all the sectors and industries in this country which have gone to the dogs lately —much of the public service, (electoral commission anyone?), the media, airlines, airports (namely Auckland), Hospitals— there’s an underlying common denominator.  

Within all these sectors there are still amazing people doing amazing things. I hear so often for example from people who, despite all the doom and gloom and horrible news about our Hospitals, have the best experiences with considerate, hardworking, and dedicated nurses. People who say they could not fault the care and attention they received.  

Likewise for every horror story about bus drivers and public transport, you’ll hear from someone who says they’ve only ever had a positive experience. I think a lot of the baggage and toxicity from these industries is at the top, amidst the bureaucracy and the layers of BS. Whereas often at the coal face, people are doing incredible things.  

I experienced this myself the other day at a medical appointment for an echo cardiogram. That’s done by a specialist cardio sonographer, trained specifically in that area given the heart is so complex. And as she scanned the four chambers of my heart looking at blood flow, she had fascinating insights into the prevalence of heart disease, especially in women, and how preventable it is. Great tips about how diet is more important than exercise: as long as you’re moving each day it doesn’t need to be aerobic and hardcore, just walking or moving, and as women get older, strength training is great too. But what you put in your mouth counts. Hearts like healthy body weights.  

But she had some good insights into the state of the health sector at the moment. How much bottom of the cliff healthcare we’re dishing out, instead of having people proactively take care of their health.  

It’s funny because I thought the same thing during Covid. We heard a lot about masks and hand washing but we didn’t hear about nutrition, exercise, and vitamins or taking good care of ourselves to proactively improve our own health outcomes.  

But we were talking about the sad demise of primary care in this country – the lack of GP’s, the lack of interest in new Med students to be GP’s, how we’re now having to outsource most of our healthcare workforce to other countries. Which if you think about it, means we lose the nuance of the Kiwi experience and what’s unique to us. But GPs are so stretched and so time poor these days.  

She was saying she has a lot of GPs as clients, and the lament how little time they have for patients these days, how in a 15-minute window you can’t get to know people or get an insight into how they really are. You have just enough time to check, diagnose, maybe write a script, and that’s it. I know from personal experience that if you try to raise more than one issue too, you’ll likely get told they don’t have time for that, or they have to charge you for a second appointment. That’s if you can get into your GP in the first place.  

But it made me think about mental health in this country, and what a difference we could make at the primary care level if we had more GPs who had more time to really gauge where their patients were at, and maybe intervene earlier.  

Maybe just like heart disease, we wouldn’t have the crisis we do if we just got to people sooner.    

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