Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Embattled Hospital Advertises for an Arts Curator

Things have been pretty tough for most hospitals in the UK. According to the Daily Telegraph, many hospital trusts have been going heavily into debt. In 2004, they were collectively 366 million pounds sterling in the red, and are projected to be about 800 million pounds in debt this year. As the Telegraph put it, "frantic cost-cutting measures had led to closed wards, cancelled operations, reduced staff numbers and angry creditors." Furthermore, "economists blame higher spending on NHS bureaucrats, increased reliance upon the private sector, higher costs of NHS litigation and higher wage bills." Although in 2000 the government "decided there were too few hospital beds per head of population," "the number of overnight beds in England has fallen steadily, from 186,290 in 2000 to 184,207 last year."
I wonder how those in the US who champion global budgeting in a single-payer health system as a way to nearly painlessly control health care costs would respond?
Meanwhile, a truly picturesque example of questionable management priorities has appeared. Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge has been under fire since a patient committed suicide after asking a physician to "direct her to a tall building so she could jump off" (see the article in the Guardian) and for having one of the worst MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) rates in the country (see article in the Cambridge Evening News). So the hospital received plenty of unwanted publicity when it advertised a part-time art director's position (at a 37,000 pounds per year rate), described as a "dynamic art curator to manage, lead and develop the hospital's art collection" (see the article in the Times). The hospital claimed that the money came from charitable donations, and that "the therapeutic benefits of art in hospital which embraces visual arts, poetry, music, dance and gardens is well recognised and encouraged by the Department of Health" (see the article in the Daily Mail.) But in the Times, an unnamed hospital nurse said "it's disgusting," and noted that the salary rate for the curator was only slightly less than that of a nurse manager.
The tendency of hospital administrators to focus on their pet projects, even when basic care is under threat, apparently is not limited to the US.

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