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Raising the Bar or Lowering It?

My client told me a roach fell from the ceiling of her room at rehab.

You read that correctly. A roach. As in the insect.

Before I go any further, I want you to picture this happening in a non-healthcare environment. Let's look at a few examples:

* Roach falls from the ceiling at a restaurant-panic ensues, restaurant clears out, restaurant health inspectors are called and perform an audit, article is written in the newspaper, and news station may cover the story.

* Roach falls from above the bed in an upscale hotel-hotel guest screams, calls the front desk staff, a new room is assigned, bill is likely adjusted, and maintenance immediately addresses the situation.

Now, let's go back to the healthcare environment in which this occurred. The roach falls, a staff member disposes of it, and nothing is spoken about it again. Until I arrive of course, at which point I immediately inform the Assistant Director of Nursing who simply takes written notes as I explain what happened. No apology, no look of disgust on her face, no response of any kind other than a muted head nod when I say this cannot and will not happen again.

What does this say about our healthcare industry? There is no more important work on the planet than the work done to save another person's life. Yet, the culture of the medical system has created an emotional indifference toward the very end user it is serving.

Why does the restaurant-goer receive better service than the ill patient? Why is the hotel guest treated like royalty while the sick patient is barely treated like a human? How is this ok? And how did this happen? Where are our priorities as a society and when will we start demanding higher standards?

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