Monday, March 16, 2015

True Story in the Emergency Room

The Emergency Room Dilemma

As I walked into the emergency room to visit a patient, I saw the halls filled with equipment and beds.  No matter where I walked there was staff rushing by me – no smile, no eye contact, no one was aware that I was even there.  As I went down the pathway to see the patient I was there to visit, each tiny cubicle that had room for a bed and a chair, was divided in half for 2 beds.  The nurse standing next to the bed, talking to a patient couldn’t do so without her back pressing up past the curtain and into the next patient’s space.  How dirty is that curtain I thought to myself, to have it handled by visitors, staff’s clothing brushing up against it and so close to the bed, the patients are touching it. When I saw a man about 3 feet from the curtain, lying on his side continually coughing, I was sure that the curtains were full of germs.
My first thought was that if animals were caged like this there would be a public outcry.  How is this acceptable?
A patient on a gurney was only feet away from the patient I was visiting.  One of about 5 beds lined up at a wall because there were no cubicle’s left.  I heard the doctor asking the patient questions about her drug use and recent surgery.  For sure I would not be having an honest conversation with my doctor if I knew my business was for everyone to hear.  When I turned around, the doctor was pressing on her belly.  An exam usually done in private.
The sink was behind the patients head blocked by the bed and an IV stand so no one could wash their hands. 
I knew someone who worked there who invited me to see a nurse in charge.  “She really is concerned” he said and took me back to meet her.  I had the opportunity to listen and learned that there are just no beds and physically no room.  She explained; we have to move patients out faster and safely but if patients come, they need to be treated.  I knew she was right.  She said that there is on-going conversations about moving patients out more timely, getting more staff but “it takes time”. 
A complaint to the state would cause additional delays in care.  Resources would be used talking to state surveyors.  A call to the Joint Commission would also cause additional stress and further slow-down of care.  They know what’s wrong and don’t need to be told.  They need resources to fix the problem.
At a recent emergency room visit, cubicles were so tight the
patients bed took up the entire space .  The sink is hidden
here behind the patient's bed, blocked by equipment
I want to help – not blame. How do we all help ensure safe care for these patient’s.  The building is only so big.  Every bed is full.  Staff is being hired and trained to move patients out faster.  Would the hospital CEO be treated as these patients are treated?  Would the family of the CEO use these beds?   There are numerous opportunities for errors here.  Staff morale must be low.  I can’t imagine any medical professional would come into this business to work in these conditions.  A supermarket would never be run like this.  A gas station, post office, hotel or restaurant would never be this crowded or chaotic.  What are the answers?  Before an injury or death from staff working too hard, too long and being rushed we need to stop this craziness.   Any ideas?

3 comments:

Suzanne Gonda said...

I have no solutions to offer but so appreciate the work you do and concerns you raise. Thank you for all you do.

Anonymous said...

Criminal prosecution for the admin. They know they are violating laws. The staff is going along more than likely because they are forced to, and they need a job. That's wrong, not just to patients, but to doctors.

Lisa Freeman said...

I wonder what would happen if you altered the story, changed the venue a little and posed it to hospitality industry executives to get their input on how they would reorganize things. Unfortunately, just being concerned is often not enough. Maybe we need to create a show on TLC - instead of "Bar Rescue" do "Hospital Rescue."