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  • Ways to improve the patient experience
December 2013
Challenges communicating
Dec 18, 2013 11:40 AM

I have complained a few times, always in writing, and have not had anything but a polite acknowledgment of my letter or a personal acknowledgment with the usual smile, but nothing has improved. In my opinion, the administrative staff is well ensconced in their safe bureaucratic jobs with all the benefits and they know that they just have to continue to be courteous to the patients and their relatives and then just forget about them afterwards. Are they busy? I am quite sure that they keep themselves busy by attending meetings and more meetings but, from a pragmatic point of view, not much changes.

My husband fell in August of 2011 late one evening and fractured his hip, He managed to get up and go and get into bed upstairs with a chairlift, but the next morning he had me call for an ambulance to take him to hospital. Within a few hours, they had overdosed him on morphine and telephoned to say that I would have to sign a form giving them the authority to resuscitate him if his heart failed on the operating table because he had become delusional and had had a heart attack {which was proved to be wrong by another hospital (letter in hand from the surgeon)}. My son arrived at the hospital and we both demanded that he should be sent to Toronto to a larger hospital which could deal with his heart. He had NEVER had a heart attack before.

To make a long story short, he was revived at a Toronto hospital to the extent that they could fix his hip within about five days, but he was sent back to the trauma ward where he stayed with tubes in his stomach for nearly three weeks in a semi-conscious state. As he was revived to some extent, he was shipped back to our local hospital where he stayed for approximately three months.

The stay in our local hospital was a nightmare, from the surgical ward, the only place they claimed to have a bed, then to the medical ward, then to the rehab ward. ALL the necessary reports were sent by the Toronto hospital, but claimed to have not been received and no telephone discussions between the specialists and doctors at the local hospital were recorded either. In one case, when I actually called a specific doctor’s office and enquired, the doctor’s secretary called back three weeks later to say that he had never heard about my husband. The information about the telephone call was given to me in writing by the surgeon in Toronto. I wonder which information was correct? All his follow-up appointments were ignored, not having been referred to the responsible professional, e.g. physiotherapist etc. and when he did get back to the Toronto hospital after making another appointment, the attending stand-in doctor told me that what was done to my husband was a ‘travesty of injustice and he would then have to have very intensive therapy to get him to walk again,” I still have the prescription he provided.

The sad story goes on, but it is not worth my while to relate it again and again. However, the daily aftermath continues after a year and the improvement my husband has made as a result of a FEW healthcare workers (not acknowledged by the community care system) has been attained by real struggles. Every time my husband has to see our family doctor or a specialist we now have to pay for the community care van to take us there; all these extra expenses for which we are not responsible.

In my opinion, the healthcare system is broken and I think it's so broken that it cannot be fixed easily, if at all, without getting rid of a lot of the excess bureaucrats who are not entitled to their salaries because of their poor job performance. And I say this because I draw a pension from Bay Street in Toronto after thirty years as a senior law clerk and, if I had done my job in any way like the jobs performed by some of these overpaid bureaucrats, I would not have lasted half that time.

I will say that the patients' department at the Toronto hospital was responsible for helping me to get all the specialists’ reports in writing (which had already been sent to the local hosptial, but never put on his chart) and I commend the staff for their help as well as our heart specialist for writing ‘another’ full report for me to give to our family doctor.

What we learned:

To fully understand this story we would need more information, however, here is what we were able to learn:

1.  Community care transportation should be free to patients
2.  Communication between local hospital and Toronto larger hospital must be clear
3.  The number of transfer requests from the patient and family caregivers could be used as quality indicators
4.  Is there a process of tracking incoming information between hospitals?
5.  Is the phone discussion recorded, or is there any other way of tracking information?

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