I recently read an article in The Irish Times regarding Dr. James Gray, an Emergency doctor labeled as a ‘whistleblower’ for his “outspoken criticisms of the way patients are treated in his overcrowded emergency” at Tallaght Hospital.
Examples of whistleblowing include speaking against having elderly patients waiting for hours and hours, often overnight, on trolleys in the corridors.
I can’t help but feel upset when doctors are criticized for speaking out in their patients’ best interest, and being labeled as “whistleblowers”.
I looked up the term and found a few definitions for “whistleblowing”.
Dictionary.com defines it as “a person who informs on another or makes public disclosure of corruption or wrongdoing”. Other definitions include divulging secrets.
Speaking up against long wait times on trolleys in Emergency Departments is not whistleblowing. It’s public knowledge already that is simply being spread. That’s called news, or advocating.
Any family member who has waited alongside their relative for hours in the emergency department knows this. As do the other members of the public, all waiting together, often in a line, pushed up against the wall of a hospital corridor. It also doesn’t take a health care professional to figure out that this isn’t good for patients.
The Emergency Department is arguably the most Public of Public places.
You can hear, or see, unwell patients vomiting next to one another.
Five feet away you can hear the doctor inform the patient behind those soundproof plastic curtains of what exactly a rectal examination involves…followed by a silence, and “that’s my finger going in”.
The public already knows: Emergency Departments are busy places. The conditions are nowhere near ideal.
Emergency Departments are reaching boiling points. That’s why Doctors are being pushed more now than ever to advocate for their patients and their safety.
It’s up to the Government to act on this information.
Whistleblowing? Divulging secrets?
I don’t think so.
Regardless of what you call it, standing up for patients should be encouraged and applauded, not condemned.
I fully support you Dr. Gray.