The Health Care System in Freefall: A Week Observing an Emergency Ward (Part III)

Twice in two years, I was hospitalized in the emergency ward for a week for lung problems. Same illness, same treatment, same hospital. I decided to do a comparative portrait of what’s happening in our emergency wards based on these two stays two years apart.

Between 2013 and 2015, hospitals had really changed.

By Raymond Viger

Increase in Violence

“Patients” lose their minds and become “impatients.” Verbal violence increases. Some become disrespectful of the personnel. When a confused woman wanders the ward in circles around and around looking for her bed, it’s a comedic situation that bothers no one.

She stops in front of my bed and argues that I’m in her bed. And each time I show her the way to her own bed, she just gets lost again.

A Few Examples

The phone rings 20 to 30 times. No answering machines – they wouldn’t have the time to listen to the messages anyway. It’d be repetitive to say that no one has time to answer the answering machines. The patients, who’ve grown impatient and are trying to get some sleep to escape their suffering for a while, start screaming:

Is there anyone out there who will answer my calls for assistance?

I’ve removed a few expletives that would have given you an idea of the intolerance level of certain patients.

No one has the time to check on the Italian lady whose loud cries and moans convey just how much she is suffering; nor on the psych patient who is yelling to get access to one of the rare mobile phones for the 20 emergency beds.

The attendants and nurses hear some violent commentary:

  • Is anyone going to go see her?
  • Anyone here actually doing their job?
  • Stop talking and scratching your ass…
  • Do your job…

A few patients even scream directly at each other with a total lack of respect.

The tone mounts until it reaches actual raw, direct threats.

  • If you don’t stop I’m going to punch your lights out…
  • I’ll kill the SOB…
  • I can’t take it anymore…

Faced with this lack of service, patients become inquisitors. When I ask for a telephone for a few minutes to advise my office of my prolonged absence, the attendant goes searching for a telephone. The time this takes prevents one of the attendants from doing their real job in terms of health care.

I witness a hysterical temper tantrum by one patient who claims she is the “owner” of the telephone and does not want to relinquish control when her turn is done. Two orderlies have to intervene.

An old woman’s IV falls out. Her blood pisses onto the floor. Three or four neighbors scream at the attendants that there’s an emergency. How can the health care staff tell if they’re screaming about a real emergency? The cries are heard throughout the four corners of the ward. There’s no way to up the intensity of their screaming when a real emergency arises.

First seen on Raymond Viger’s blog, December 15th, 2015

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