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

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

Staff Reactions

Working in such a chaotic system can only irritate the personnel. When you choose to make a commitment to improve the care given to patients, you can’t remain indifferent to the lack of tools and the deterioration of services. You’d like to be able to give more, but the result will always be a total impasse.

Overcome by the situation, many have begun to throw in the towel. A few examples of the workplace ambiance:

An attendant asks a colleague: I need help on a rectal temperature I have to take.  

Replies by the first four colleagues asked:

  • I don’t have the time.
  • I don’t feel like it.
  • I’m not running anymore, it’s not worth it.
  • One at a time. I’ve tried to do everything at once, but nothing changes.

Finally, a security guard has to wash his hands and help out.

This sort of discouragement can easily turn into increasingly direct sarcasm, with no embarrassment, in front of patients. A few examples:  

  • The patient at the other end stinks of perfume. I’m not going back there.
  • Can you go clean the patient, please… He peed himself and I’m not going back there if you haven’t done it.
  • Always the same. None of our equipment works like it’s supposed to.

For my iodine injection x-ray I lay on a hospital gurney awaiting my turn. For a while, my field of vision is focused on a grill that I consider horribly filthy. I tell the technician so that she can tell whoever is responsible for cleaning it. Her reply is disappointing: It’s so complicated to get something cleaned around here. Let’s just forget that.

First seen on Raymond Viger’s blog, December 16th, 2015

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