When Pay Shuns the way (Short Story)
She had been in and out of the wards more than most of the staff there, more a part of the block than the hospital bed she lay in. Her medical condition meant hospital had become her home, more so than the property she supposedly lived in. Fatigue was now conquering her fighting spirit, as opening of the eyes was like increased weight reps being placed upon her lids. Yet what tired her more than anything, more than her own body succumbing to its demise was the hopelessness that she found in all that surrounded her now. In and out for over sixty years, she no longer felt the same hospitality in these corridors.
She remembered how, all those years ago, there was the movement for free health at the point of care. In fondness she recalled how her debilitating condition had seen the silver lining that made her struggle seem worth it. Her low income was not going to correlate to low care. Unlike so many other societal facets, her health was not measured by her wealth. Doctors and nurses were impressed at the medical miracle, the one who would always inspire them – the remarkable lady back in action, back fighting against all odds and further baffling the world of healthcare – her smile widening on each return. For all her hardships, she lived a more fulfilling life than many healthy people could even approach.
Yet now, her sighs are deeper than ever. Nostalgia told the truth this time. She had always held the staff around her bedside as wondrous heroes with invisible capes, true pillars of this beautiful healthcare system. Over the years, as some would leave the wards, more passionate, selfless beings would rise up and greet her. They used to be able to spend good time with her, on a first name basis – giving encouragement to each other. At times, you would forget people were there because they were ill, such was the excellence of care received. Yet these same fantastic staff, these same pieces of this brilliant jigsaw, were starting to find themselves as parts of a puzzle that was just getting more complex. These integral beings were feeling lost in the abyss of some bad decisions being made from far above them.
Many great things come to an end, she would wonder…but not like this. She would see more and more strangers in suits in the wards, and less of the nurses and doctors she so adored. She would overhear more talk of cuts, more conversations between professionals in their scrubs genuinely worried about the safety of those under their care. For the first time, she was beginning to feel less than human, more like her life was a burden to the bed that served her. She felt like a heavy bag of coins that weighed down upon the bed, and felt as though people in shadows would peek in anticipation for that bed to be free. She would feel crushed, seeing her heroes in uniforms keep battling under a growing intensity of pressure that would see your favourite Marvel character crumble under.
One cannot deny that this once utopian seeming reality was not short of its problems, and perhaps would not be able to be sustained at the same rate as the population grew and it aged. She knew that… the optimist and the dreamer was not naïve. Yet, again she couldn’t help but keep repeatedly think….not like this. Not how Mr Barker in ward C was in tears as an invoice that he knew could not be paid for his fathers health was placed upon him almost without care. Not as an increasing number of mysterious people in suits would come in and come out, leaving clear anxiety among those that once fell in love with serving the unwell. Not how she would come to witness those who could afford it get VIP access to greater care because their fortunes favoured them. Or how she had to witness grieving mothers blaming themselves for a poverty that was beyond their control.
She’d see nurses often fight back tears and put on a brave face, for she had overheard confidential conversations about wages not being enough to make ends meet. Not how a true leader like Jayish, one of the top consultants, was forced to resign for making stands against the cuts that was being forced upon his team. Utopia was descending into anarchy, as more and more sufferers were hearing whispers of privatisation get louder, because it was being presented more and more as the ‘only way’.
A teardrop slowly trickled down her cheek as she closed her eyes the final time. For the first time in her decades of hoping, she finally succumbed to the reality – that it no longer held a place for her dreams.