It’s hard to forget the scene in ‘Trainspotting’ when Mark Renton is locked up in his bedroom by his parents and forced to go through cold turkey without the help of 18 tins of cold soup, ice cream, milk of magnesia, valium, paracetamol, mineral water, vitamins, mouthwash, two buckets, soothing music, a mattress in an undisturbed room, Lucozade and pornography.
Well, Horsens Regional Hospital is taking a leaf out of RentBoy’s ‘Guide to Relinquishing Junk’ with its new approach to dealing with drug-addicted or alcoholic, often homeless, patients.
While it isn’t laying on free heroin or cannabis, it is serving up beers, cigarettes and crisps, reasoning it is the lesser of two evils if the patients enjoy themselves before or after potentially life-saving treatment.
A doctor determined to succeed
The hospital’s chief doctor, Ulf Grue Hørlyk, has been busy defending his carrot and stick policy – with the help of some economic reasoning.
“If, for the price of four beers a day, we can keep a pneumonia patient in treatment, then the patient will get better out of it, and at the same time the hospital will save some money,” he told TV2.
Hørlyk believes it is important to prioritise the treatment and even worth the risk of engineering an addiction as a result.
“If we decide that it is wrong to use four beers on a pneumonia patient, then the patient leaves the hospital and later comes back much sicker. Once we have finished treating pneumonia, I could then treat the alcohol abuse if there is a good reason for it,” contended Hørlyk.
Endorsement from the nurse
Hospital nurse Susanne Kjærsulf hands out the ‘rewards’ to the patients, and she whole-heartedly agrees with the hospital’s strategy.
“Distributing cigarettes or beer can be crucial. I’ve had a patient who didn’t want to stay here. But because we offered three beers a day, he remained hospitalised until he completed his treatment,” she said.
“You have to see it as a harm reduction measure. It’s not about whether the patient should smoke or not. This patient will smoke no matter what. But because the hospital offers them a pack of cigarettes, the patients stay hospitalised and get treated for their illness.”
Other treats include sodas, DVDs and … deodorants.