Friday, July 13, 2007

Bureaucracy: The Joke Is On Us

Happy Friday the 13th!

It's all quiet on the Moroccan front lately as the summer holidays are here and some of the staff are on vacation. I will be conducting a training for them in a couple of days time and I'm confident that the attendance rate will not be as planned because of the vacation season. Can their HR people plan better in advance?!!

I was reading this Singaporean blog and found out about a sad story related to bureaucracy.

In the story, a woman passed away due to massive loss of blood after childbirth. Unfortunately, the hosipital was obstinate in upholding its blood use policy of 'use 1 replendish 1', and refused to provide more blood for the woman's treatment, resulting in her death. According to the deceased's husband, it was explained that authorizing the use of more blood for her treatment was subjected to approval by more higher layers in the administrative structure. Usually, this kind of gesture requires time which a dying patient don't have. (You can watch the report on youtube here).

Has that hospital person-in-charge in question considered the purpose of the hospital before refusing to commit more blood? I believe that every hospital in the universe puts preserving lives somewhere in their mission statement. Therefore if that purpose was to preserve lives, shouldn't the hospital went ahead and provide what is necessary to preserve the dying woman's life? Perhaps I'm wrong, the purpose of that hospital was to watch their blood inventory level.

Shouldn't there also be a kind of a quick communication process up the bureaucratic chain whereby critical decision could be made for emergency cases? If the person-in-charge is afraid of making the decision, somebody at the top could be informed and could make a quick judgement call to release the use of blood . The hospital can worry about the blood inventory level later by mobilizing the public to donate in order to replendish the inventory. In my opinion, this kind of emergency don't happen everyday so there should not be a frequent break of policy.

But perhaps hospitals are so accustomed to dealing with life and death situation on a daily basis that nothing is out of the ordinary. The person-in-charge probably thought like this:
We just followed procedures so everything should be fine. Too bad that sometimes people die but hey, it's a given 50/50 right? The patient just didn't respond positively to our efforts as expected. Anyway, we tried, so good job, let's give ourselves a pat on the back and go grab a beer.

Much as I dislike bureaucracy especially red-tape, in the modern society, we simply cannot live without a bureacracratic structure to handle the needs of the masses in a professional and efficient way.

But I'm afraid that if the incident becomes more prevalent, then our society is approaching the day when we have bureaucrats that Max Weber dubbed "specialist without spirit, sensualist without heart". Believe you me that I really dread the day when Singapore becomes a society without bureaucratic flexibility.

We are facing so much of bureaucratic inflexibility in the countries where we are working. It really irks me that no matter how inefficient and incapable these people-in-charge are, I cannot do anything about them because they are preserved behind official positions and layers of rules (sometimes unstated and probably made up impromptu ... you sons of bitches!) and so can do no wrong.

Red-tape is the name of the game here. In Morocco, a colleague took almost 3 months to get a visa application approved when it should have taken 2 working days. For my Lebanese residential permit, there are simply too much layers of in the approval process that I get thrown from departments to departments for one fucking piece of crappy looking paper. More often than not, we received no explanation about delays and processes but instead all we get is the "take it or leave it" attitude.

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