Health care that's there when you need it

January 11, 2017


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Dear Editor:

 Imagine being in a position of responsibility wherein each of your decisions has an immediate impact on not only an individual, but possibly their immediate family members, relations and friends. One where expectations of your knowledge and skill set and are so very high, but where those very people you are seeking to support are too often highly critical and judgmental, sometimes to such a degree that it is harassment.

These are the conditions that the professionals, those Emergency staff, at Southampton’s Saugeen Memorial Hospital and elsewhere, often find themselves to be working in. Our community is fortunate to have access to the resources of the emergency department, whether it is for a cold-thought-to-be-the-flu, a bladder infection, a miscarriage, depression, broken bones, surgical complications, serious injuries from an accident, blood poisoning, heart attack or stroke, to name just a few. And all come to medical team’s attention without any forewarning before they start their shifts.

We write this, to acknowledge the care of the ER team but also because, on recent visits to the ER, we found the waiting area to be a toxic environment – not because of the staff, but because some of those waiting to be seen, or to have a loved one tended to, chose to rant and rail about their situation and/or the wait time. Perhaps on future visits (because if they are residents of this community there will be future visits), these same people might give pause and think about the impact of what they are saying) on the ER staff that is very aware of the negative comments, and on those who are waiting to be tended to, and who are often already in an anxious state.

Consider the following:

>>For those who choose to voice their complaints loud and clear, indirectly, showing contempt for the staff and the process, are not punished with longer wait times, as was vocalized to the rest of us in the blue and brown chairs. Perhaps, a visit coincides with a shift change when staff takes time to update their replacements on the status of patients, or about results and a care plan for others who might be returning. Perhaps the wait is longer because there are more urgent cases being addressed in a manner that you would want for yourself or your loved one.

Fact: The wait times at Saugeen Memorial Hospital are about 65% shorter than the provincial AVERAGE.(1) In an ER with only 1 doctor on staff, that is a success story, and something to be thankful for.

>>To say ... "I wouldn’t give a dime to the hospital" is potentially self-defeating and an affront to those who have decided to support the Saugeen Memorial Foundation in recognition for the services delivered, or simply because they are grateful to have such support in close proximity. While overhearing horrible rants, we read the posted messages from those of us who donated to the “Light the Way Campaign”, in support of new equipment, and thought of what the hospital continues to mean to our family and friends.

Fact: “Fundraised dollars are used to purchase equipment for the Southampton site and our share, generally based on patient usage, for our regional hospital in Owen Sound. … Hospital equipment is generally not funded by the government. Equipment becomes outdated quickly and new equipment is always needed.” (2)

Click the orange arrow to read the second column

>>"This is the worst walk-in clinic I have been to." Quite simply, the ER department is not a walk-in clinic. It may be difficult to get a doctor’s appointment for something that is not critical in nature, but individual symptoms may relegate some to the back of the line. Bringing some water, a book, phone or video game (with ear buds – very few people want to hear what you are listening to, or doing with your electronic device. To that end too, consider going to a more private place to discuss symptoms, fears and/or frustrations).

Of Interest: From a Globe and Mail article, “Ironically, the most economically effective way to reduce ER wait times would be to increase them. Make it 12 hours for minor cases and far fewer people would use emergency services for minor complaints.” (3)

>>Negativity does nothing to enhance the situation of anyone waiting to be seen; in fact, it greatly increases stress and undermines the healing process. Certainly people deal with stress in a variety of ways, but inflicting negativity on oneself and others is not helpful. Others in this case, include not only those who are waiting, but the very people that we want to provide us with care. Being grateful that there are competent and caring professionals who will assess, diagnose and treat symptoms - all at no personal expense, and hopefully providing peace of mind.

Fact: In speaking with an ER doctor about our recent experiences, we learned that 90% of the time the ER staff is aware of indirect complaints coming from waiting area. Imagine striving to do your best at your job in such a hostile environment, and try practicing gratitude instead.

 In closing, too often we don’t voice our appreciation for all of those who provide services for us, so at this time, thank you to the ER staff, nurses, doctors, lab technicians and others who are there for us when we need you.

Nancie & Tim Smith.  

(1) Ontario Ministry of Long Term Healthcare.(Nov./16) Emergency Room Search Results.
(2) Saugeen Memorial Hospital Foundation. (2017)  /AboutUs
(3) Reynolds, Neil. (October 2010). The price we pay for spending 6.2 hours in the ER. Globe and Mail.

Editor's Note:  We couldn't agree more.  Recently, we had our own occasion to visit the ER due to a severe fall on icy steps.  Staff recognized it as a true 'emergency' and took us immediately ... they were professional and empathetic ... from the admitting nurse to the X-ray technician to the doctor.  Thank the powers that be that we have health care close to home.


Canadian Community News, and thereby its subsidiaries, does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. All comments must be signed and are published at the discretion of the editor

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017