I had a conversation today with someone I deeply respect about issues like poverty, hunger, mental health and community resources to deal with these issues. I wish at times that I could articulate my thoughts better.
When I was explaining my desire for the Health care sector and social service sector to combine more solutions to help those in need (with NICE[Necessary Items for Continued Existence] KITS, Listening and Life Information Rooms instead of Waiting rooms) the response was —
That is not the purpose of a hospital or emergency department. That the services exist if people would use them. I have heard this response before. I have thought about those two facts. They are both completely true. My concern with this is —
If someone is undernourished, dehydrated or in emergency because they can’t afford the basic necessities of life and are sick as a result…then it is a life threatening situation. We may fix their dehydration by IV or tube feed them a meal but after they leave emergency there is nothing making them better. Hospitals and emergency departments are not equipped or funded to deal with these issues. But maybe they should be. There are dozens of conditions and diseases that patients are in the hospital with because of poverty or stress related issues. Not having the necessities of life can cause stress leading to stroke, heart attack, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, complications from diabetes, lowered immune systems, exposure to environmental hazards, vitamin deficiency complications, lack of ability to concentrate or think straight, fatigue, malnutrition, and many other health problems. Many of these are costly to treat, and can lead to difficulties, pain and be fatal. It may not seem like a hospital’s problem. It does create many of the problems hospitals deal with though.
There are other resources out there for people to use if they need them. That is true. But those resources have not been the solution to the problem. So the question is- What else have we got? What more can we do?
Food banks often run out of food. I know someone who recently stood in line for three hours at a food bank, having swallowed her pride and taken the bus to ask for food. After waiting that long she was told there was nothing left to give her. She should come back in two weeks, but come earlier as they often run out. Two weeks is a long time to go without food. To then find the bus money and strength to go to a food bank in two weeks time-when you are not feeling well. Many on disability are given less than $100 (for groceries, medication, toiletries, clothing, etc) after they pay rent and a phone with their check of less than $600 a month. Who is there to help? The person cannot work, has gone to the government and is not given enough to provide the necessities of life. They go to the community resources for help like a food bank and often there is not enough help available for everyone in need. So where do they turn? How do they find answers, support, a listening ear and help.
Some say Hospitals are not meant to take care of the problems of necessities of life. That material needs are social services issues and the mental and physical health issues are for Family Doctors to deal with. Family doctors are not always easy to find and when you do, the doctor often doesn’t have time to find out about your “basic needs in life”.In fact most doctors today have signs in their office that says “Please limit visit to one issue”. Sometimes you can go to a doctor asking for a referral for services or help and not get one. I have been trying to get a referral to see a specialist for my wrist that was injured months ago. I still have not been able to find a way to see one. I have been told to ice my wrist and take a prescription for swelling and pain. For months. It has not been a solution. It is not just that hard to find a doctor for a swollen injured wrist. Mental health waiting lists for programs are so long that a person often has to be in crisis before they can find anyone to listen to them. A Listening or Life Information drop in clinic would stop the need for a crisis. It would not solve someone’s depression or fix what ails them but it would give them an ear to listen and the resources to cope with the problems they are facing. Until a more permanent solution is found.
Many patients that end up in the hospital, or in emergency- would not be emergency cases, would not be physically and emotionally sick and tired if they had someone who would help carry the burden of their life. If there was a NICE (Necessary Interventions for Continued Existence) clinic where individuals could find a listening ear, information and support, where they could get the basic needs of life met and help finding long term solutions to the stresses, health problems, and life circumstances that have brought them there.
We may not know whose fault or responsibility a problem is…I am not sure that the blame or responsibility to fix it are really the question. Isn’t it every human beings problem if people don’t have the basic needs of life. Shouldn’t everyone be trying to find a way to change poverty or the fact that young people in the world today are killing themselves so often that it is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. If there is a way to help, shouldn’t we do everything we can to help those in need…no matter what choices got them there or who is suppose to answer for it.
I don’t care if people don’t like my ideas for solutions to the world’s problems…as long as my ideas get people thinking about solutions.