Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cyber Secrecy in health.govt

At a time when the country is reeling with anxiety about meta data and what-all being spied upon or leaked all over the cyberworld it was again disconcerting to report for a Hospital appointment this morning and be asked to produce my passport yet again. 

The health system seems to be rigidly unable to permit useful information to cross boundaries between District Health Boards. If they share information, it seems the only thing that Whangarei, Waitemata and Auckland Boards all know about me is that I am CJF6844. That works anywhere in the country. But it tells them just about nothing.

So, once more today, my consultants had not seen my “end of life” directives…  And for the fourth time in four months I was measured and weighed (am I a baby and not putting on enough weight?) and next of kin and personal contact details all filled in again (“Sorry, but we don’t have those details here” - well, why not, I ask myself, when all this stuff takes up staff time as well as mine).

And the consultation began with yet another recounting and recording of my medical history. Years ago I saw a file 3 cms thick with my name on it and flags sticking out to mark important items. But staff doctor Anna didn’t have any of that today. She had a referral and a couple of pieces of paper. When she said that she would organise a CT scan, I produced my own DVDs of last month's scans; she didn't even know I'd recently had CT, MRI and Scintigram scans, courtesy of the failed evaluation for the ARN 509 trial. 

Well, I guess the system is taking no chances on being unduly influenced by what has gone before, that’s for sure. But in this IT age, it all seems a huge waste of resources.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sam and John and national morality

While we were at Beyond the Borders over the weekend someone broke into our parked and locked car. Sam, I will call him, in defiance of the flashing alarm, smashed up the ignition barrel. The engine immoboliser defeated him so he satisfied himself with stealing some items carefully stored under a seat and covered with some coats artlessly tossed on the floor. (We have done our time in Community Patrol and do make an effort when we are forced to leave stuff in the car!).

Naturally, this event, probably born of Sam's boredom and mischief rather than malice or greed, led many of our friends to sermonise briefly on the deplorable moral attitude of many of our (young!) people. But the news of the terrible shooting of two social welfare workers in Ashburton has directed my thinking down a different path.

Reading the background of the story does not provide a simple explanation. "John" is obviously a very complex character with profound and distressing medical problems. The appropriate agencies seem to have tried hard to assist him. His behaviour had already involved them and him with the Police. Perhaps the whole situation was irretrievable when he first returned to this country without work.

But what this awful situation brings to my mind is a different age in state social services. I think back to the Woodhouse report of 1971 and the subsequent attempts to set Government support at a level which would enable beneficiaries to live something like a normal NZ lifestyle. I remember the years when the state actually delivered an extra two weeks' income for all beneficiaries at Christmas.

Where has that country gone? What has brought about the conditions in which we, as a nation, have accepted systemic failure to deliver proper care and protection to unfortunates like John and the two public servants he callously shot. What led us to accede to the Benefit Cuts of the 1990s?

At the Beyond the Borders we were reminded that the measure of a country is the way in which it treats its most vulnerable members. For me, that will be a primary issue as I cast my votes in this month's elections.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Beyond the Borders

We're just recovering from the conference on Progressive Spirituality at St Luke's, Remuera. What an uplifting and stimulating experience. There was solid and thoughtful input but also heart-warming - if brief - reunions with friends from many denominations over several decades.

We have loved the 23 years in the Bay of Islands but always were aware that we were less accessible to many friends acquired over the years. This was a special opportunity to freshen up relationships with like-minded folk from different places and age-groups. We were reminded how many circles we have moved in through five decades of active church life.

Our ambivalent relationship to all things progressive continues, but the issues have been sharpened. Like many progressives, we don't want to lose contact with a Christian community. But it was absolutely refreshing not to have to stumble through hymns with non-inclusive language in them. It was exciting to listen to presentations which expressed some of our thinking that has already moved beyond the traditional... It was encouraging that theological statements that pushed the boundaries were not argued over but accepted graciously. And it was challenging to chat with other people who are coming to see that things have to change where they are and that they have to take some initiatives for themselves.

I hope that means that Bev and I will find ways of extending this experience into our life in some kind of congregational experience. It would be a poor outcome of this event if the best that we could do were to commit to another talk-fest of this kind - no matter how stimulating - in another three or so years.

Thanks to all at the Community of St Luke who brought this event from a dream to reality!