Something we can all be proud ofPosted: June 22, 2012
I often write bits and pieces for my Word Hanoi column that I change my mind about and end up writing on a different topic instead. I was reminded of this piece, written during the Jubilee, when I read this moving post about Clive James who is losing his battle with cancer.
The above linked article includes the snippet:
Writing last year, Clive praised the NHS for his treatment. He said Addenbrooke’s Hospital can “make me burst into tears of gratitude.”
“It isn’t quite as beautiful, perhaps, as the Taj Mahal. But it can save a life. It has been quietly busy saving mine.”
Something you might have missed amongst the pomp and ceremony of the recent British Diamond Jubilee celebrations, but 20% or Brits would prefer not to have a monarchy at all.
In times of Royal disgrace that swings to nearer the 40% mark.
Frankly I’m a little more apathetic than that. Live and let live that’s me but can we do it without the expense and what one Guardian blog commenter called being forced to “celebrate our oppressors”?
But anyway, the celebrations happened at the same time that I re-opened the file marked “health insurance claims” in a bid to get at least something back from our growing investment in both international and local healthcare in Vietnam.
On tweeting how much I missed Britain’s National Health Service it struck me that there was something worth this level of celebration. That morning I had read of a British kid being sent to the US by the NHS for specailised treatment on a brain tumour. It’d be easy to see that as an NHS failing but I see it as a very humble action. Especially when the same treatment wouldn’t be open to many US citizens – a country where two out of three personal bankrupties are health related.
What does this have to do with Vietnam? Lots.
A pregnant friend visiting an international clinic was told by the local doctor the procedure she was about to undergo would be a lot more painful if she hadn’t been one of the doc’s private patience.
My wife undergoing an operation in a Vietnamese hospital came to afterwards and was asked by a fellow patient how much she had left in her pyjama pockets for the doctor. She hadn’t. It was hard for her not to worry about the implications of that.
Many international organisations will offer a level of health care cover for their employees and for that they deserve credit. Except that, it’s often the case that Vietnamese people don’t get the same packages as international staff. Usually it’s the same kind of organisations that are pretty vocal about equality and human rights.
So, from my position here in Vietnam, let me use this column to celebrate not the Queen but the (free) British National Health Service. My mother gave her working life to it – my father paid his taxes towards his whole career and now, in his old ages, he’s more than getting that back in drugs and treatment for his knees that would otherwise have effectively crippled him.
As a nation, how better to celebrate our NHS than to use is as a model to be copied by developing countries. Here in Vietnam there is already a Women’s Day and a Teachers’ Day. How about getting behind a Doctors and Nurses days? Let’s see the NGOs and the diplomats standing up for free care. Surely one of the most important human rights.
From a British point of view I’d love to see us shouting about our National Health Service as loudly and widely as we do our Royals. In a country where the best healthcare means leaving Vietnam altogether and the worst is, it appears, vindictively painful, the NHS would offer a role model to strive for.