I had to venture into the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) this past week. It wasn’t a trip I wanted to take, but Granny needed immediate medical attention so we packed her up and off we went.
As with all trips, I tried to do some advance planning. If I went to Royal University Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED), it would mean both of us would need medical attention (mine from a mental health perspective.) The idea of languishing for hours in that waiting room, while Granny slid into decline, was not an option. I thought about calling an ambulance, expecting if she arrived on a gurney she would get their immediate attention, but using that mode of transportation would have caused Granny greater distress. However, after a quick call to her family doctor, City Hospital’s Emergency Department was designated as the go-to place.
Together with another family member, we loaded Granny in the car and started our journey into the SHR netherworld. We pulled the car right up to the curb in front of City Hospital’s ED doors and I entered the hospital and found a wheelchair. But getting Granny out of the car and into the wheelchair proved a little more difficult than we had thought and we were concerned about causing her bodily injury, so I went back into the ED and asked the admitting clerk if someone could assist us.
Now I might have understood if the clerk had said to me it is against hospital policy for us to assist people into the building, an issue that would have to be addressed with the SHR board, but I was stunned when she said “no” and that I could call the fire department for help if I wanted to.
I thought she was kidding, but she wasn’t. I said Granny is four feet from the door; we just need someone to hold her feet while we lift her in the chair. I’m not sure whether there was a physical manifestation of me transforming into a poltergeist, nor do I know if my eyes changed colour when I started to see red, but thankfully before I could violate the “verbal abuse will not be tolerated” directive, a gentleman who was standing nearby, admitting his mother, stepped up and offered assistance. (Thank you, kind sir, for your thoughtfulness and help.)
After the four-foot trek into the hospital, and an unpleasant experience with the admitting clerk, the triage nurse stepped up to do her job. I can’t say enough good things about this nurse. The nurse was kind and gentle with Granny, subtlety probed for Granny’s medical information, assured Granny that they would take good care of her and then immediately had her in a bed.
Next up were the ED doctor and nurses in the observation room. Again, I am thankful for the medical attention Granny was given by these caregivers. The doctor did not come across as a terse demi-god, but was personable, and explained what he was doing and why, which put Granny (and us) at ease. The nurses handled her with kid gloves and, after prompt testing and scans were completed, we were advised that Granny was much sicker than we thought and would need to be admitted to hospital for treatment. The rub was that she couldn’t be admitted to City Hospital and would have to be ambulanced to St. Paul’s Hospital.
It was a little disconcerting to see the number of uniformed non-medical hospital personnel when we entered the ED at St. Paul’s. At first I thought that there must have been a catastrophic event in the city, but then determined that several were security guards and the rest were EMTs waiting to have their patient transports admitted. (Apparently EMTs cannot leave their transports at the hospital upon arrival, but have to mill around waiting for formal hospital admittance.)
I then approached the security station and explained to the guard that Granny had been ambulanced over from City Hospital and we wanted to see that she was settled. He pointed to a red phone on the desk and invited me to use it to obtain information from the nursing station, which was behind locked doors.
After 10 rings, I got a recording that basically said “your call cannot be answered.” To his credit, the security guard took Granny’s name and ventured behind the locked ward, returned and allowed us to enter. She was there, safe and sound, and would be taken upstairs as soon as a bed was available. (Regrettably, the kind gentleman who helped us at City Hospital was also at St. Paul’s Hospital and still in the waiting room with his elderly mother slumped in a wheelchair. How very sad.)
The next morning I visited Granny at St. Paul’s. Although the room was as hot as hell, she was cold and shivering. I tracked down a nurse and asked if she could bring a housecoat for Granny until such time as we could get her things from home. Sadly, the hospital was out of housecoats, but the nurse did bring a warmed flannel sheet that solved the problem. Gone are the days when a patient may have normally been given a bed bath after a few days stay, but on day two Granny asked for a basin of water and towel so she could wash herself and brush her teeth, and she was accommodated.
In reality, the nurses working on these wards have such a heavy workload that the niceties of assisting patients with personal hygiene have gone by the wayside. Still, to their credit, these nurses handle elderly patients with compassion and patience, offer a smile and a chipper comment when attending to them and positively interact with concerned family members. Hats off to all these merciful people.
Recently it was reported that the Saskatoon Health Region may have to cut jobs due to budgetary constraints. Should that happen, I don’t know how much longer people in medical need (especially the elderly) can wait for treatment or how much heavier the workload can get for hospital personnel. Add to the equation the need for repairs and maintenance to hospitals. Is it time to question whether the government’s priority should be health care and hospitals instead of football stadiums, art galleries and commerce?
I end this with overwhelming gratitude to those hospital personnel that did the best they could for our family member under less the desirable circumstances, as well as for other patients in similar situations. Thank you one and all.