Thursday, 9 July 2015

Never ascribe to malice…

In my long, varied, and deep experience, I have discovered that there are mainly two reasons for incompetence in any professional arena: namely, stupidity and greed. And they are not mutually exclusive: as is proven by the multi-storey car park developed (seemingly in haste – both from its makeshift appearance and its stunning lack of fitness for purpose (see below)) for the new Stratford Hospital – itself designed, apparently, to look like an ill-fitting conglomeration of partly-opened kitchen cabinets. If the Government is as keen to both commoditize (and subcontract) healthcare and create workhouse-like factories for the poorly-paid – especially those in the public sector – as I believe: then such architecture (and I use the term extremely loosely for something that has obviously been created by computerized machines with oversized egos, and no concept of the friendliness of the curved surface) will be a perfect environment (if not epitaph) for their joint demise.

According to Collins: “If you describe someone as incompetent, you are criticizing them because they cannot do their job or a task properly.” And, in my case, they are dead on. Doing a “job or a task” successfully does not – however right-wing your ethos – simply mean raking in money, or bringing a project in on time and budget. To function well, any facility must surely revolve around its users and their needs. But as George Osborne proved so adroitly, yesterday, such idealism, such ideology, such idiocy, is to ignore the slimy, hand-staining lure of profit. In this modern world of corporate scrounging and £93bn handshakes, the needs of the few (giant corporations) outweigh the needs of the many (little people) – as my hero Mr Spock would obviously never have said.

When the “phenomenon of our times” Owen Jones wrote, in his “phenomenal bestseller” The Establishment: And how they get away with it, that the “great carve-up of the NHS is a threat to the health and even the lives of patients”, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking specifically about the bent-over-double pensioner who took around thirty minutes to exit the labyrinthine travesty that HUBER Car Park Systems – whose slogan, “HUBER guarantees long-term, efficient and profitable use”, says all you need to know about why they were hired – describe as “Project Stratford-upon-Avon”:

Huber has constructed a 250 bays public car park facility for the Warwick NHS Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon. The car park forms a first part of a wider development in Stratford hospital; the steel structure is timber cladded and is serviced by two staircases and two lifts. The project is the first to receive the bespoke HUBER LED fittings with advanced controllers which provide low operational costs without increasing the installation times and costs.

Nowhere can I find an explanation (or boast) of how their “system” (however unsystematic in practice) benefits its actual users: with its overly-complex, indecipherable, automated ticketing machines; its narrow lanes – meaning that cars (especially the archetypal Warwickshire behemoths) cannot pass each other without great difficulty; and that all the multitudinous sharp corners must be taken (slowly) only in the few magical moments when there are no oncoming vehicles. It’s as if they have turned best-practice on its head to squeeze in as little investment, capacity and practicality as possible. (That’s why only 2% of the spaces are Disabled bays, of course.) For a service that deals almost exclusively in humans (you know what I mean: those soft, squidgy moving objects…) who are damaged in some manner, it seems to me that HUBER (and those who hired them) have deliberately gone out of the way to engineer an increase in the number of casualties entering the hospital: injured in the inevitable physical clash of SUV bumpers (with each other, as well as with disoriented stragglers); or mentally weakened by the tortuous, unmanned (ta-da: no fallacious living wages to supply!) payment gadgetry.

Were it not for the burly, hard-hatted, high-viz-jacketed saint who just happened to be passing by, I fear that the old gentleman, in obvious pain, and confused beyond belief (but ignored by those many hurrying folks besuited and lanyarded with NHS ribbons and tags), would still now be leaning on his stick, and the boot of his car, breathless: wondering both how he was going to shuffle across the incessant traffic entering, leaving, and almost-colliding; and then operate the Terminator-redux towering over his tiny, distorted frame. I admit that I was no help, either: as I too was befuddled and angered by the difficulties we were both having merely in attending for supposed healthcare.

According to the Hospital’s own website:

There are exciting plans to build a new state of the art hospital in the centre of Stratford. The first phase will provide first class Cancer [sic] and eye services for local residents of Stratford and surrounding districts. Without these services near to home, patients previously had to travel long, tiring distances to other facilities which are further afield to receive treatment. In some cases cancer patients decided to go without their treatment as they were unable to travel long distances every day, when they may already be feeling weak from treatments.

It also says, under “Creating a pleasant environment”:

We understand that a visit to hospital can be a challenging experience. We want to ease this and help our patients and their relatives feel as comfortable as possible during their time with us. Our aim is to use charitable funds to create a homely and less institutionalised environment for the people that use our services. Research has shown that the environment in which a patient is treated can have an impact upon the healthcare outcomes. By developing a space that is theraputic [sic] and supportive of family involvement we will be able to reduce anxiety and stress, something that can aid recovery.

Which I can counter with only one word (and which The Good Lady Bard will tell you is my favourite and most-uttered) – bollocks. It is all well and good to spout such badly-crafted homilies; but it takes more than a jobbing copy- or speech-writer to turn them into customer-oriented, user-friendly reality.

Now, patients have “to travel long, tiring distances” simply to pay for their car-parking – which is only not free for the disabled because that would need the attendance of a costly human-being to monitor. And there is no doubt in my mind that “the environment”, as it stands – with its large ladling-out of “anxiety and stress” (which, of course, retards recovery (oops)) – can only have a majorly negative “impact upon the healthcare outcomes” of anyone trying to arrive under their own power. I would not be surprised if, as a result, there was soon a further increase in patients deciding “to go without their treatment”. Personally, I would rather drive all the way to Warwick or Oxford, than have to go through the struggles I and my disabled colleague endured yesterday.

There is one drop of comfort in all this. According to the architects:

The new hospital… will include a new… energy centre and public realm as part of the strategic masterplan.

I would like to nominate myself to be the first leader of this new “public realm”, please (having first received some much-needed “energy”…)! And, if ruling it necessitates gratuitous violence (as I hope), Game of Thrones-style, then I would also like to nominate the car-park designers as my first victims. My weapon of choice will, of course, be a carbon-fibre-shafted walking stick, wielded brutally from my large Japanese war-chariot. There will be blood.

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