By Adia Miller
American citizens may often wish they had a medical care system in place more akin to that in the U.K., with its free public healthcare that covers at its very base the price of a physician, the hospital, and sessions with a psychologist. However, for some years now there has been a lack of human resources in the medical field within Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and England.
Campaigning for better pay, improved working conditions, and increased hiring to alleviate some of the overwhelming burdens placed on current staff members, shortages and strikes have become a constant within British hospitals and continue in the U.S.
On January 23, Unite ambulance workers will be going on strike at an even greater scale than their December 1,600 person strike. After dismissed meetings, the medical community has largely come to the same conclusion: the government needs to sit down with the National Health Service (NHS) for a reasonable discussion.
On top of the scheduled strikes have been numerous unwanted delays of medical services. One Welsh man, Steve Parsons, had to drive his grandfather who had collapsed to the hospital and carry him in because there were no ambulances that could come to him. On the drive, the man’s grandfather went into cardiac arrest, though he’s now reportedly healing.
There are also multiple incidents under investigation where a person has died before the ambulance arrived, which is not unusual besides that fact these people have waited on occasion nine hours for paramedics to come only for it to be too late. Though the ambulance workers are working tirelessly and trying to prioritize the most critical cases, the staffing shortage means that they can’t get to everyone they need to on time.
It’s not just the ambulances struggling with limited staffing. On January 4, 422 people were left waiting for admission to a hospital in northern Ireland due to issues with discharging patients. As reported in the Belfast Telegraph, Unite member Onay Kasab said, “The resolution to this dispute is in the government’s hands.”
Knowing how important their jobs are, organizations and hospitals have been announcing their strikes in advance to prepare those for their absence. Ten more strikes have been scheduled as of January 21, and Unite has been working to pass on the strikers’ obligations as the event takes place, keeping emergency services covered as well as life-saving treatment appointments, including chemo and renal care.