Though there are many unknowns surrounding the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, what is starkly evident is that there are no winners in the aftermath of the prank. Images of her stricken family reveal just how badly things went wrong.
It appears that Saldanha played a very small role, merely answering the call from the two Australian DJs and putting it through to the appropriate staff member. It was not Saldanha who revealed royal medical details.
Having listened to the recordings, I understand why no one was more surprised than 2Day FM DJs Christian and Greig when their silly accents fooled staff, and they found themselves discussing the Duchess’s condition with her nurse. However, in the context, why should nursing staff be knowledgeable about silly Australian accents, and why should they be expected to be on the alert for pranksters?
Clearly hospital protocol regarding access to information about royalty and celebrity needs a review, not to protect those luminous beings, but to protect hospital staff who look after them. Surely it wouldn’t be difficult as a matter of course, to direct all inquiries to a PR professional and leave the medical staff to do their jobs untroubled by pranksters.
It’s the nature of the prank that it takes its subject unawares, and plunges her or him into immediate confusion and self-doubt. The nurses involved may well have felt there was something amiss, and found themselves in the unenviable position of having to make a spilt-second decision that either way would backfire. What if they’d hung up on the Queen? What if they’d wrongly questioned her authenticity? The victim of a prank can never win.
I am interested to know how hospital management treated Saldanha. While a spokesman has been at pains to reassure her family and the media that she was not formally reprimanded, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t shamed in other ways within the hospital system, by administration and other staff. Was Saldanha held solely responsible because she answered the phone and put through the call? What about the nurse who gave out medical information?
DJs Greig and Christian have been widely blamed for instigating the prank that apparently led to Saldanha’s presumed suicide. However, it seems to me that like Saldanha, they are in some sense scapegoats for managerial hierarchies that have in both cases failed to adequately protect their coal face workers. Greig and Christian performed the prank, a prank that was approved by the station’s lawyers, and that was situated in a station culture of pranks. Apparently, the DJs can only air what is approved by management.
Saldanha, Christian and Greig have in common a position of being small but very visible cogs in powerful managerial wheels that are largely hidden and protected from public scrutiny.
No matter what one thinks of them, the careers of Greig and Christian may well be over. They are bearing the brunt of global fury at the dreadful outcome of the prank. At any time several layers of 2Day FM management could have pulled the plug. Nobody did. Will any management heads roll at the station?
Jacintha Saldanha is dead. Will any action be taken against the hospital management that failed to implement protocols to protect staff and patients from violation of privacy?
What is needed is an ongoing exposure of the normalised managerial culture that allows those with minor decision-making privileges to become scapegoats for the less visible but extremely powerful individuals who are running the show. Ultimately these individuals are responsible when things go wrong, and they are responsible for the culture of the institutions they control.