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Common Sense Vs. Bureaucracy
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Last November, at Kingston General Hospital, Brigitte Robinson underwent an emergency Caesarean section to deliver her healthy baby girl. Afterwards, her husband, John Kennedy, remained at the hospital to help her care for their daughter.

All would have been well had John and Brigitte not been in the same ward room as a Muslim couple who insisted that John leave whenever the Muslim mom was breastfeeding (even though her bed was surrounded by a curtain), and banished him from using the sink in the shared bathroom.

Those working on the floor decided that the easiest way to deal with this situation was to move the John and Brigitte and a third couple into private rooms, away from the Muslim family. They went along with the plan, until the bill for $750 arrived. Kennedy has steadfastly refused to pay. As he explained to the Whig Standard last week, he wasn’t the one who minded being in a ward room; it was another couple who minded his presence.

Unfortunately, the hospital can’t discuss its side of the story for privacy reasons, so we only have Kennedy’s account to consider. But when the story hit the local paper, it quickly spread to blogs and talk radio, to almost universal condemnation for the hospital. It’s not hard to imagine why. As anyone who has been on a maternity floor recently will know, frequently the mom needs the dad to help with the newborn, because the nurses aren’t going to do it around the clock. On a maternity floor, a dad is not optional. He’s essential. If you don’t want another man near your wife or newborn, then, you should request a private room, rather than insist that everyone else accommodate you. End of story.

Like many of our public institutions, though, Kingston General Hospital seems to have lost basic common sense. I'm not surprised. “Common sense” implies that we have something in common. In an increasingly multicultural society, though, that's not necessarily true. Thus, new rules are constantly being created to govern social behavior which we, at one point, would never have thought twice about. And in these policy sessions, political correctness rules.

But that’s not the only reason why hospital administrators may be prone to making dumb decisions. Their main focus has to be to meet the budget. Thus, day after day they go to meetings and talk about “best practices”, trying to create rules, and procedures, and guidelines for everything under the sun so that the bottom line can be met efficiently and uniformly. They're divorced from the actual delivery of care. Their concern is creating conformity through rules, not recognizing when exceptions should be made.

Here's another story: in Oregon last week, 7-year-old pigtailed Julie Murphy set up a lemonade stand. Unfortunately for her, the Health Department got wind of it and told Julie that she needed to pay $120 for a license to handle food. What kind of an imbecile tries to stop a 7-year-old girl from selling lemonade to her neighbours? One that spends most of his or her life in meetings! The public outcry was so great that the Health worker was ordered to go back and apologize to the little girl. I hope he had to buy a glass of lemonade, too.

What do these cases teach us? Bureaucracy, by its very nature, will tend to overreach and enforce rules your average person knows is ridiculous. So when bureaucrats, in their pursuit of uniformity, do something completely inane, don't stand for it. Be loud, like John Kennedy. Get publicity, like little Julie. Let's restore our public institutions to reflect what this country is supposed to be: compassion mixed with common sense. Wouldn’t that be a nice change?

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At 10:39 AM , Blogger Terry @ Breathing Grace said…

Yes, Sheila, that would be a nice change.


At 8:26 PM , Blogger Tessa said…

Have you ever read the "essay" on the passing of common sense? We had it stuck to our fridge for a while. It's so true that people need to start using it more. It's unfortunate that these things happen. And in some cases, the lack of common sense side wins! For example, the McDonalds coffee incident where the lady sued because she spilled her coffee and it was hot.
My dad told me that happened in Europe somewhere and the judge asked the man, "How long have you been drinking coffee?" The man replied, "Since I was about 15." The judge said something along the lines of "If you haven't learned by now that coffee was hot then you're an idiot. Get out of my courtroom." Now that is common sense to me.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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