Hellish Health Care

Gratitude has been my watchword since I was released from University Hospital more than 3 weeks ago and stories that have emerged since that time only intensify my feeling.

The London Free Press this week reported that ambulance attendants are currently having to wait as long as 8 hours to offload patients at UH and Victoria Hospital.  So much for urgent care.  From the CBC, the story of a woman who spent 36 hours in a hospital hallway after undergoing pancreatic surgery. 

If you’ve never had surgery let me tell you what my experience has been. When you come out of anesthesia you’re disoriented and weak.  For the first while after an operation – and I’m not talking about a mole removal but a real operation – you’re vulnerable and very needy.  You’re probably also  in pain and have to call a nurse for pain relievers. The Vancouver woman had no call button with which to summon a nurse.  She had to use her cellphone to call the main hospital desk and get transferred to her nurse’s station.  Can you imagine?  The whole time her bed was in a busy hallway with a privacy screen around it and people constantly walking past while she tried to rest.

At UH I was put into a room that wasn’t meant for patient care.  It was a “family and patient resource room” at the end of a hallway.  On other floors that room served as a small library and quiet room in which visitors could relax.   They pushed the furniture, including a table, bench and upholstered chairs, against the wall.  Fortunately there was a call bell in the far corner of the room but there was no toilet, sink or reading light.  It was huge and private but it was also very cold and several times nurses admitted they forgot about me.  (Still, I would call the care I received “excellent”.) One nurse told me that a directive recently came down to start lining patients up in the hallway but the nurses refused.  They banded together and said they wouldn’t do it so the hospital reversed its position.  Over-crowding is a real problem.  On the 8th floor, several palliative care patients were being warehoused until a proper facility could be found for them.  Other rooms were serving as a stop-gap before a nursing home; those patients weren’t ill, per se, but unable to care for themselves. I don’t know how much of the problem originates with these kinds of situations but that’s what I saw.

Recently I received a statement from my insurance company confirming that they’ve paid for my second week in UH.  But what about the first?  Well that’s a little more complicated.  I spent 2 days in various parts of the ER, two more in a ward room on the 4th floor and then I was moved into that aforementioned meeting room.  I suspect they’re trying to figure out how to assess it because it was, indeed, in a private room but it was not to the standard one would expect of hospital housing.  I pity the fool who tries to bill me because they’ve decided it’s private and my coverage only extends to semi-private! 

The Vancouver woman doesn’t want her name used because she’s afraid of retaliation.  She is, after all, still recovering and might need future urgent medical care.  It was so busy at the facility that ER staff took over the in-house Tim Hortons so they’d have a place to put more patients.  If stopping the flow of double-doubles doesn’t get someone’s attention, I don’t know what will.