I was admitted to Campbell River General Hospital in the middle of March for scheduled major surgery.
Near the end of my fifteen day stay I was always encouraged to walk the ward whenever I felt up to it and that brief escape from my bed became pretty routine for the last three or four days. So I was, through the window at the end of the hall, able to watch the new hospital project move ever so slowly toward the reality of the large artist’s conception mounted on the wall behind me.
However, whenever I stood up from this window view of the ‘soon to be’ spanking new hospital I was suddenly wrenched back to reality as I turned and looked back up the hallway. There were usually racks of meal trays with accompanying dirty dishes, large red laundry hampers waiting for the latest soiled gowns, one or sometimes two other patients (usually with IV stands) trudging down the hall with or without a helping relative, a housekeeping cart with assorted brooms and cleaning/disinfecting fluids, and always the occasional patient in a wheelchair as well as the periodic patient (in a bed) in an ‘alcove bed’ in the hallway. When you add the near constant flow of doctors and nurses in and out of rooms carrying clipboards, IV bags (some empty, some full), bedpans, little paper cups with all sorts of pills, and then add the seemingly constant pinging of patient call bells…you end up with a vision of semi-chaos and the overwhelming feeling that this narrow hall (this building) simply cannot support that which must go on. It’s nearly impossible to maintain even rudimentary cleanliness. And then the elevator door might open with two attendants pushing/pulling a gurney with a new patient looking for a slot somewhere. This, of course, will turn into a major engineering nightmare due to all the aforementioned people and things spread throughout the hallway.
Yet somehow it all happens. The nurses, of course, might get a bit behind in their rounds of “doing vitals” for all the patients in the rooms they are responsible for. The patient ringing the call button may have to wait a bit before the nurse can retrieve his glasses from the floor where he dropped them. And there will be a delay getting to the phone to find an on-call nurse for this evening’s shift which is again short staffed. And these nurses have no conferencing room. At shift change they huddle behind the counter of the nurses’ station to pass on all relevant information to the new shift. This is also where doctors confer with the nurses and each other when devising whatever new treatment plans are required.
Clearly I should be thrilled that a new hospital may help alleviate the many roadblocks to recovery. But I’m not. Because, when I turn and look to the hallway, I am acutely aware of the fact that these people have been forced to work in this situation for years if not decades. Waiting to replace a crumbling hospital due to some invented then imposed budgetary constraint is borderline criminal. Current taxation policy should never trump appropriate health care.
The nurses and the doctors and the various support staff are the only reason this institution functions, and they somehow manage to provide caring and professional help so that there is a minimum of suffering and a maximum of dignity. And this is in a building nowhere near suitable for its purpose. We have done them and all their patients a disservice by forcing them to work in deplorable conditions where the basic necessities are often not available in a building long past its ‘best before date’. I hope we treat them and all patients differently in the future.
A shiny new hospital doesn’t ‘make all the hurt go away’. For some the wait has left permanent scars.