We would expect the amazing outcome was a result of science and competent medical intervention – though coma conditions still seem to be a mystery in medicine – but the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam, and some members of the medical team held to the “miracle” momentum, and that was about all the explanation we got.
The family might think the same way. It has to be an indescribable feeling to see your offspring coming back to life, so the parents may very likely be eternally grateful to the Macau health services and the gods.
This being an extraordinary case, it certainly justified the visit by the Secretary and the PR piece – although framing it as a “miracle” did not really help increase confidence in Macau’s medical staff and facilities. An opportunity was missed here.
But the main point worth drawing attention to is the ordinary situations of health care needs people experience on a daily basis in the city.
The hospital facilities are gloomy, to say the least, and it is operating at overcapacity. Elderly people who go there every day for checkups, blood tests and other treatments have to line up and wait, sometimes for hours, before they can be seen by a medical practitioner. Some are told to come back several months from the day they show up to undergo a test or screening.
For years, there have been complaints and warnings about the lack of specialized staff, the overcrowding of certain medical units, and equipment deficiencies which eventually force the hospital to send people to Hong Kong to treat more serious cases.
One of the main problems with public health systems worldwide is that focusing on cutting expenses makes services poor, when not deficient, resulting in a general policy of remediation instead of prevention. It is cheaper to maintain the system this way, which is often a dominant rationale in public budget spending.
But it is inconceivable in a city like Macau. Not only because the government levies ridiculous amounts of money from gambling and the plans for the construction of new public hospital facilities have been dragged out for over ten years now, but mostly because it has an educated political elite.
Putting private interests above the public good is disputable, but ignoring the benefits of virtuous public management when most of the people in control have the power and knowledge to know what can be improved is immoral.