30 May 2013

24 hours in intensive care

Monday morning I drove into the city centre. It is always difficult finding a parking space in Kyiv city centre. But as this was the first working day since the schools broke up for the summer things were a little easier today. After parking up I had a short walk of only 50 metres to the office door carrying my briefcase and laptop. By the time I got to the office door the briefcase and laptop could easily have weighed one ton each.

My heart was racing, sure it would burst through my chest very soon, I was out of breath and it was not easy to remain standing. Oh I just needed a cup of green tea and all would be OK, I convinced myself.
Here is the difference between normal people and fools. I include myself as a fool here. Normal people would seek medical assistance by going to see a doctor or calling an ambulance. Fools like me think you don’t need to worry about it and it will just go away eventually.

It took me 30 minutes to calm down but I could still feel something was not right this time. I was even stupid enough to have a business meeting and then spend time checking my emails. Then the headaches started. Wow, surely my head would explode very soon, plus I was sure my heart would do the same.  On arrival at Boris Hospital a doctor who knew me said they had found something on the x-ray taken the previous Saturday. They whisked me into the intensive care unit.  I’m on my back with several faces looking at both me and the monitor above my head. Those ICU doctors and nurses swing into action very quickly. I had no idea what was my heart rate but I knew it was very fast and irregular. Something was wrong.
I was told they were going to give me ‘something’ to try and reduce my heart rate. They injected something into me and it didn’t work. The senior doctor then looked into my face and said ‘’Gerald we will need to restart your heart electronically’’.  You have an Arrhythmia of the heart.  (I had the same problem in 2009)  He was holding what I call ‘zappers’.  I was expecting someone to say ‘’CLEAR’’ before he zapped me.  My eyes must have been the size of tennis balls as I was thinking, ‘’NO surely he is not going to zap me while I’m still awake?’’.  He must have seen the shock on my face because he then said ‘’It’s OK we will give you something to calm you down first’’.

I woke up. Maybe I was out for only a short time. I could see four or more faces looking over me. All faces were without any emotional signs. Just blank looking. Here is the thing about Slavic people and Ukrainians in the main. They have no understanding about the importance of non-verbal communications. If I had woken up in a hospital in England I would have been reassured by the smiling faces of the nurses probably followed by a voice with a northern accent saying something like ‘’Everything’s all right Gerald love you made it don’t worry’’. Here in Ukraine…nothing.

The doctor finally said ‘’we did not have to restart you electronically, as soon as we put you to sleep your heart started to return to normal’’. Well that was a relief.

Intensive care units are busy places and this one no different. When you are a patient you spend most of the time on your back and never really see what is going on. That’s why you listen and try to imagine.  I could hear that the man in the next cubical struggling to create any comprehensible sentences as he tried to attract the attention of the nurses. Mnnn but this is a private clinic in Ukraine why would they accept a drunk into the ICU. Poor man had suffered a stroke.

Now that I was stabilised and all wired up to broadcast media the bips and pips became very important sounds. I disconnected the single wire connected to my index finger only to set off the alarm with staff running. Lesson learned. I’d managed to hang on to my mobile phone and was impressed to find a Wi-Fi network in the ICU. But they are not the places for rest and sleep and more busy than a metro station and noisy. Just as I was trying my best to get some sleep I heard the arrival of Sergey.

Still on my back I could detect the noise of ‘projectile vomiting’ and the noise associated with great gut wrenching pain. Sergey had eaten or drank something which was now churning his insides. Reminded me of my younger days. I had already developed empathy with Sergey. Problem is he never shut up for the next NINE hours. Why they did not knock him out I do not know. I was tempted to ask a nurse to give me something to help me sleep.

It wasn’t until 4pm the next day that things started to calm down. If fact the ICU was now empty apart from me. Most of the patients had been taken from the hospital. This is a Ukrainian technique. Pay for the real hard work required but don’t waste money with fancy after care services. Unless you are a foreigner or rich Ukrainian. The staff were sat around with nothing to do and one doctor said ‘’Maybe we will keep you here for another night Gerald’’. OH NO. NO NO NO NO. It might get like Piccadilly Circus again tonight. I want some sleep. A calm private room for me thanks.

Boris Hospital is OK. They are professional and will take care of you. I’m happy as a result of the four days I was there. It became obvious that they have had their fingers burned by many non-payers in the past and so now operate a very strict deposit and payment system. After I was stabilised in the ICU I was approached by someone from the admin staff who asked me how I intended to pay the $1000 deposit. By bank card please. But we can’t do that here. Our terminals only work on the first floor. So they disconnected me from the ICU systems and put me in a wheelchair and took me down to the first floor to swipe my card through a machine. A few minutes later I’m back in the ICU all wired up again. Perhaps you know what I’m going to say next. Can you imagine a hospital in Britain doing this? Maybe a lesson for the NHS? Oh the joys of the private sector.

08 May 2013

Good for them but not for us – How can the British continue to encourage Ukrainians to work more closely with the EU when many in the UK would vote to leave the EU if given the choice.

This week a former member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, (1981-89) and former Chancellor of the Exchequer – Nigel Lawson, declared that Britain would be better off OUT of the EU than in it.

See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2320945/The-Euro-charade-Nigel-Lawsons-absolutely-right-The-idea-renegotiate-EU-pure-fantasy--voters-fall-it.html


He is the first leading conservative to share his views openly. Many suspect he is just one of thousands of members of the conservative party who share like minded views on Britain’s membership of the EU.  Moreover, many believe that the British Prime Minister David Cameron would be wasting his time in trying to renegotiate the terms of membership of the EU.


My opinion is that if the British government were brave enough to offer the British public a vote on EU membership, in answer to the simple question: ‘’Should the UK continue to be a member of the EU – Yes or No’’, the over whelming majority would vote NO


Britain’s continuing membership of the EU is going to be one of the most important topics of discussion right up to the next general election in 2015. The increased profile of UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) during the recent county council elections in the UK has further helped to challenge the British government.


So, how can the British continue to encourage Ukrainians to forge a deeper relationship with the EU by signing an Association Agreement and free trade agreement later this year?


Open for discussion.

04 May 2013

Unicredit Bank in Ukraine - Please get things sorted out.

I recently changed banks. But I have lived in Kyiv long enough to know that before making the change I would do plenty of homework. I did the usual of checking with my friends and those who had close contact with the new bank. Questions like: Which is the best branch to open an account? How many staff can speak in English if required? Do they have good on-line and internet banking systems? and many other questions.

So, Unicredit Bank was selected and I quickly opened various accounts with them. I was impressed by how far things have changed inside and in dealing with staff in banks that operate in Ukraine. 
Unicredit group have obviously done a great job in training people in customer care. I was impressed with how they took care of me as a new customer. My new bank cards were issued within a few days and I was supplied with various passwords and codes for internet banking and other activities. Great.

A few days later I decided to activate my internet banking account and went to the Unicredit Bank web site.
Not having the bank as a bookmark on my browser I googled the word 'unicreditbank'
(Try it if you are using Google Ukraine or 'unicreditbank in ukraine' if outside).
It will come up as the first hit.  http://en.unicredit.com.ua/

So, I will now activate my internet account using the passwords etc. After several attempts I assume I must be stupid and not doing it correctly. I eventually give in and call the customer service help line. The operator tells me that I must first go to an ATM and obtain my special codes. No, I inform her that I already have them from the bank. She tells me this is impossible and I should go back to the bank.

I call my contact person at the bank and she tells me that all is OK...just try again. So I try again many times with out success. I call the on-line call centre for help. When the operator asks for my card number, she politely tells me I'm calling the WRONG bank. She claims...''this is Ukrsotsbank' you need to call Unicredit Bank.  I protest. ''But I'm in your web site now.....its says 'Unicredit Bank' on the web site, how can it be wrong?''. She explains that I need to insert the word 'bank' into the URL. This I do and now discover a new web site: http://en.unicreditbank.com.ua/

Ah....so this is MY Unicredit Bank. How can this be? Surely most people make the same mistake?
Later my contact at the bank tells me ''Sorry, most of our customers have the same problem''.


So WHEN will this misunderstanding be corrected.?

Because I have lived here for some time I'm already aware of the long standing intention to merge Ukrsotsbank within the rest of Unicredit group but it is obvious they are taking a VERY long time to bring this about.

So...be careful. You might think you are dealing with Unicredit Bank but really talking to Ukrsots Bank.

What is this doing to damage the brand and image of Unicredit Bank in Ukraine?