‘Give me a break,’ says the Universe. ‘All those annoying Sputniks and Voyagers, I’m getting complaints from the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt. And the satellite feed is rubbish, just reality shows and re-runs of Neighbours. And the Leader of the Free World thinks aliens are rapists, which is a calumny; anal probes are purely for, you know, scientific purposes and all.’
The great question has always been: ‘Is there anyone out there?’ Are we alone on our Pale Blue Dot? Up until now no evidence of intelligent life has been detected, but the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute recently announced that a radio signal was received from the Andromeda galaxy, and eventually this message was deciphered.
‘Please help us, our A&E units are overflowing, some patients are having to spend over 36 hours on a trolley waiting to have their anal probes removed.’
The A&E Crisis is not just restricted to Britain and Ireland; it’s not even just global, it's universal, cosmic, intergalactic. Healthcare problems will always be with us; an ageing population, increasing expectations and the inexorable advancement of expensive medical science present an insoluble problem, of which overcrowding in A&E departments is only the most visible manifestation.
Behind the headlines are multiple factors; under-resourced social services, over-stretched primary care, inability of GPs to admit directly to hospital or to order tests, reduced bed capacity. The sad reality, which governments (and voters) refuse to confront, is that ‘free’ healthcare for everyone for everything is mind-bogglingly expensive.
As healthcare becomes more successful, it also becomes more unaffordable; healthcare systems across the world are struggling because healthcare is just becoming f***ing impossible.
We could send the Andromedans a few triage protocols, someone suggested, before realising that their galaxy is over two million light years away i.e. this message was sent 2 NOWLs ago (NOWL = Non-Urgent Orthopaedic Waiting List), and it will be another 2 NOWLs before our reply would arrive, though I’m sure our Andromedan colleagues will be most grateful when it does.
‘Thanks for nothing, earthlings,’ they’ll say.
- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell