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Friday, September 26, 2008

Digsby gets even better

A couple of months ago, I stumbled across Digsby while looking for an app to roll together IM and twitter usage. This awesome app quickly won me over. Besides the expected basic IM support (all major protocols except Skype), it offers:

  • A clean, customisable interface. It doesn't go quite as minimal as what I achieved in Miranda, but the tabbed interface and wide selection of skins make for a huge improvement on many other IM clients. The fact that the skins are all script based makes it fairly easy to get your hands dirty and customise the app even more if you are that way inclined.
  • Contact merging. Joining contacts across multiple networks is as easy as dragging them onto one another and deciding on a name for the merged contact. There are some small quirks with different statuses across networks, but nothing serious.
  • GMAIL, Yahoo, Hotmail, POP, IMAP and  AIM mail support. Each added account has a simple window which shows new mails, with inline options to delete, archive or mark them read to name a few. This great functionality is great for those of us that don't want to keep an email client open and only want to open it when absolutely necessary-but still like to keep on top of things.
  • Integration with Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and now even LinkedIn. A summary window is available for each of these services, with current status, updates from friends and notifications of important events. It's easy to update your status on each of them straight from Digsby too.

The one major gripe I would have had with Digsby in the past was it's rather large memory footprint. As of this week's release however, Digsby now runs fairly lean and mean. All that's missing now is a portable version :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

SA Medical 'care' has hit rock bottom

(My apologies for the long down time, between the hectic deadline at work recently and all Natz' medical woes, it was unavoidable)

As a chronic disorder sufferer I am something of a hospital and surgery veteran. I have 'fond' memories of these institutions reaching back to the days when our government hospitals were some of the best in the world and medical aid administrators wouldn't dream of paying for private hospital care. Of course it has been well over a decade since government medical care deteriorated to the point where those patients with medical aid would rather opt for private care.

As a fallback, for many years the private hospitals in South Africa offered those fortunate enough to afford their services excellent care. It seems though that the golden age of private medical care is over as well.

Over the last four months my wife, sister and law and nephew have each unfortunately had need of hospital care. Between them they spent time in hospitals belonging to both of the major private groups in SA (Life and Netcare) and had absolutely terrible experiences.

The horror starts with the admission process. In this age of online convenience and practically unlimited storage, the mind boggles at supposedly modern companies that require their clients to provide the same volumes of information (which are already maintained by their medical aid) every single time they visit. What is even worse is that in Life's case the patient must undergo preadmission. This means that a patient is expected to take additional time to get to the hospital before actually coming in for the procedure, just to fill out these forms to provide information the hospital already has from previous visits. One would think this preadmission process would mean on the day of the procedure itself, the patient would be able to walk in and be led to a hospital bed. Au countraire, it is still necessary to wait in reception for admin staff to approve the paperwork. On one occasion we waited in reception for 45 minutes until Natalie was finally allowed to continue to the ward.

Arriving at the ward, memories of friendly nurses eager to help are spoiled by the reality of nursing staff who insist on finishing whatever important private conversation they are engaged in before acknowledging the patient's existence. The nursing care itself leaves much to be desired as well. The nurses 'caring' for Natalie ignored her pleas for something to soothe a headache for well over five hours, Vanessa's were oblivious to her drip having missed the vein and causing swelling and those looking after baby Dayle missed the fact that he had become dehydrated while under their care.

The surgical success rate instills no more confidence. A routine wisdom teeth extraction resulted in months of pain and discomfort as well as three follow-up procedures for Natalie. To top it all off, she ended up coming out of the last procedure (which had nothing to do with her mouth) with a chipped tooth.

To add insult to injury, as a combined result of the miniscule dental limits imposed by medical aids and the need for those follow up procedures, we also sit with sizeable medical bills.

A quick visit to consumer feedback site shows that our experiences are by no means an exception to the rule, and the templated response to complaints on the site is yet another example of the shortcut approach which seems to be becoming the industry norm. To be fair, the administrative staff at the hospital I complained at has been helpful, but this is after the fact and doesn't help solve any of the problems.

I honestly don't know whether the sudden and massive decline in treatment of patients has to do with massive greed and cost cutting in the industry, lack of training or just staff apathy, but whatever it is needs to be sorted out. We are rapidly approaching a point where our expensive private hospitals are becoming little more than extremely expensive hotels with really big first aid cabinets.


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