Thursday, July 13, 2006

Only in Canada?

I'm not exactly angry, but it bothers me. Maybe I am disappointed. Disgusted might be too strong a word; peeved might be better. Oh, I don't really know how I feel about it.

Yesterday, I had to go to our local, little hospital for x-rays. We have heard good things about the hospital or at least about its emergency room. Apparently, the service is usually good or quick at least. In Ontario, if you don't have to wait for an interminable length of time in the ER, it's considered to be quite remarkable and worthy of praise.

So, I had high hopes for the place, but I'm afraid that I was rather disappointed. While they were efficient enough, they rendered no evidence of having twigged to the concept of patient as client (or customer).

I dealt with four different people in the twenty-five minutes that I spent there. I don't recall one greeting, one smile, one how are you. I was processed. That's what it was. I have been x-rayed before, you know, and to my recollection the technician has always shown some sort of interest in my condition. Not this one. The robot technician who x-rayed my foot yesterday wasn't curious at all. "Shoes and socks off. Up on the table." She positioned my feet took various pictures, told me to wait while they were developed — all, somewhat miraculously without ever looking at me. I was simply a foot, a body part.

Come to think of it, I don't think the lady who registered me and punched in my data bothered to look at me either, and I think the same thing applies to the x-ray secretary who told me to sit and wait. Giving credit where it's due, it now occurs to me that when I first went to the wrong window, the young lady who directed me to the appropriate wicket did look at me and there did seem to be some warmth in her eyes. I guess I should be grateful.

But I'm bloody peeved at the rest of these health care practitioners and, based on this experience, at the institution in general. Is a slight touch of humanity too much to ask for? I'm not asking for Wal-Mart phoniness necessarily, but if minimum-wage workers can affect friendliness, can't highly paid health care workers make a wee effort? They weren't exactly grouchy or miserable, just aloof and uncaring. At least that's what they seemed to me. Who can know their thoughts, however?

Maybe it's our health care system. I'm sure that it's a stressful job, and I'm sure that the financial constraints of our public health system aren't exactly jolly-making, but jeez louise. I'm not sure that the blame does lie with the system, however, because it doesn't seem to me that they were so stoically phlegmatic back in the Sarnia hospital. Maybe it was just one of those bad days, yesterday, or perhaps I simply chanced upon an unfortunate set of people. I don't know.

I wonder what it's like elsewhere. Maybe the more private-for-profit American system spawns better public relations? It's also extremely difficult for me to imagine that those chipper and garrulous Aussies could ever be so gloomy and taciturn; that beggars the imagination somehow. Only in Canada, you say? Pity.


Karla said...

Oh AC, these things make my blood boil. I had a terrible experience after my c-section at my local Ajax emergency (you may recall my neanderthol story), and when I went to the emergency when I miscarrying, would you believe after the five (or was it six) hour wait while crying until I hyperventilated in the ER waiting room, the doctor returned and stone cold said, "you are no longer pregnant". No, "I'm sorry", nothing!

I'm sorry you had such a terrible experience, but I couldn't agree more that even a tad bit of compassion goes a long way.

Karla said...

PS - I hope your foot is OK!

Heather said...

I've had some really bad and some really good experiences with medical professionals. I spent 3 weeks in the hospital just before losing Matthew, and had some of the most compassionate nurses I've ever met. On the other hand, I've been brushed off in more emergency rooms than I care to count. And the doctor at our neighbourhood walk-in clinic has no bedside manner whatsoever - I've brought my kids there and he gives me their diagnosis without ever speaking to them or hardly even looking at them.

Dale said...

Me too. I once had diabetes for a weekend because the lab was closed until Monday. It was a stressful two days, I must say. (I'm fine now, thank you.) But when my leg was broken, I found really nice people at St. Joe's here in Hogtown. I saw compassion nearly every visit. Maybe you just visited on a particulary "off" day.

Gina said...

Well I just went to see my endocrinologist yesterday, and I can say that at my very-for-profit hospital, the woman at the reception desk was a borderline rude automaton.

It's all about getting you the heck out of there so they can move on to the next victim. Er, patient.

Judy said...

I hope your foot is okay!

I had a HORRIBLE ER experience. One that still gives me nightmares. It was also my first ever ER experience.

Since then, I've carted myself, my children and my parents to the ER so many times that I have lost count.

None of those even come close to that first horrible one.

Granny said...

Ours has just undergone a total revamping and it's improved.

With Ray in and out so much lately, I've noticed the difference. There are probably a few rude staff but for the most part they're okay.

It's our only hospital and they catch everything from a kid with the sniffles to auto accidents to gunshot victims. They're frazzled and there is often a wait for the less serious cases but I think they are doing the best they can.

PBS said...

Hope your foot is OK and getting better! My ER experiences have been all pretty much like yours, I think they're overloaded and stressed out. But the regular clinic has kind, warm people working in it.

Rainypete said...

Sadly any trip tot eh ER that results in a wait time fo less than several hours is an accomplishment these days. I've found that as the overwoked and underpaid remain as such for any length of time they begin to lose their capacity for empathy. Hospitals sure aren't what they used to be. People walk in grumpy and abuse the staff because of delays times that they have little or no control over and then they same grumpy person berates them for not being happy and smily. The end result is that the staff just assume that all people are that arsehole and we get treated like cattle.

methatiam said...

With my stepfather, I’ve been in more ERs and ICUs than I wish to remember. It wasn’t so long ago that I was taking my wife in about two or three times each year.
There are those who stick to the rule like little martinets, those who are trying to get through their day and classify each and every task as “foot”, “heart”, “bone” and deliberately ignore the rest of the body (and therefore person), and those who put their paperwork over the patient.
I have found, though, that if you can see something distinguishing about a person, what she’s wearing, earrings, a unique accent, etc… you can engage them as a person, and more often then not, they return the compliment.
As angry as I get in these situations, and with these people, I have (much to my chagrin) discovered that the very ones who treat me like an injury are the ones I treat like a medical object – a robotic nurse.
I hate it when I catch myself like that.

Linda said...

I once took my daughter, who had been suffering from naseau and dizzy attacks several times a week for 3 years to a neurosurgeon. He checked her over and then had the audacity to say, "So, this is really just a minor inconvenience, isn't it."

Darlene said...

Hah, I love your comparison to Wal-Mart phoniness. So apt! Although even though I don’t go there that often, I’ve gotten my local Wal-Mart greeter to actually recognize me when I do come in now, and we’ve become like old buddies. It feels good seeing her, and you can tell she appreciates it when someone actually considers her to be a person and not just a robot performing its required duties.

Okay, here’s one viewpoint from an American perspective. When I went to emergency to have my back checked out and they discovered I had a broken rib, the waiting room atmosphere was decidedly morose. The woman who checked me in wasn’t much better, but after I heard the preceding person giving her a hard time, I could understand her attitude. A lot of people give them grief. But I didn’t have to wait there long. I’m sure some days or times of day are busier than others, and everyone who goes there considers their needs an emergency—after all, it was an emergency waiting room. And it probably varies from one hospital to another.

Once I saw the doctor himself, at first he was more automated, and I thought—oh, no, one of those!—but I think my friendly attitude opened him up, because he immediately became very attentive and concerned. I didn’t even need to have x-rays taken. After feeling my back, he could pinpoint exactly where the break was. And I said I had slipped on the steps and banged my back, what amazed me most was how he looked into my eyes and asked me for sure what had happened. I knew he wanted to make sure there wasn’t any abuse involved. Wow! (Believe me, in no way is my husband like that!)

So I stood there with a wry smile on my face and graphically showed him how my legs had been spanning across the attic stairs. I had reached forward for a traveling bag, brought the furthest leg back and it slipped, so I purposely threw myself back into the abutment to break my fall—and bingo, I felt that searing OWIE in my back! Then he himself went into detail about how he had a skiing accident and had fallen on his pole several years ago, which broke several of his ribs, and explained why strapping up my back or putting on any support wasn’t necessary.

The session went fairly fast, but we still covered all the necessities, and my spirits were high when I left, because both of us had actually had a great time! I had even shaken his hand in delight! But it could be I just lucked out getting him.

P.S. How’s your back doing?

Elizabeth said...

Medical care is certainly not what is used to be in this country (USA)either...but if you search and talk a lot to others, you may be able to find a good doctor yet. Of course, DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT get so sick you need them on the weekend!! We have found in recent years that the doctors we like are NOT in big fancy fact, they are in rather dumpy looking places (the current one we go to is an old house on a side street in a neighborhood)...but the care is simply amazing! I guess they are not into making their patients pay for new buildings. Just had to take my daughter in quit ill, her first visit to him...and he knows we do not have insurance (other than catastrophic) on her and only charged us $70 for a first visit. Even from him and in this area, I was expecting at least $100. Nice guy!

Doris said...

Last year a co-worker called me from home during her vacation to tell me the terrible news that she had been diagnosed with cancer after going to the emergency clinic of her local hospital for what she thought was a lung infection. I visited her in hospital two days later and while I was sitting with her in her room (shared with another patient who was present as well as a visitor), the doctor came in and in front of all of us told her that she had generalized cancer in her lungs, ovaries, and intestines and that her survival was hard to predict. He then said that they would arrange palliative care. After this he looked at her and said in a hersh tone "do you understand?". She answered "yes" weakly and then he left the room. She had to call out to him to come back to answer a question about medication. He didn't even know how close a friend I was or care that strangers were present. I was appalled.