CORNER BROOK — A Corner Brook woman is wondering how bad the health-care system is going to get before it gets better, especially if construction of a new hospital is still a few years off.
Marketa Neilson, 72, spent most of last week as a patient at Western Memorial Regional Hospital. An experience that has left her very upset.
She said the care she received there is not the issue and could not say enough about the “excellent” staff.
“I’m not complaining about the care, that’s not it. It’s the system really. It’s the conditions,” she said.
“I’m usually a person that will take this lying down. But this is one time I’m going to say something.”
Neilson, a normally active senior who goes to the gym five days a week, had just gotten over a bout with pneumonia when she took sick with what she thought was an attack of diverticulitis.
After arriving at the emergency room, Neilson underwent some tests and the doctor advised she would be admitted. It looked like the trouble was more related to irritable bowel syndrome than her diverticulitis.
She was hooked up to an intravenous and told she’d be going to the ER load. That’s an area in the emergency department that serves as a holding area for patients waiting for a bed. Neilson said there’s two such areas in the hospital, one capable of holding 10 patients and the other eight.
Neilson said she knew such areas existed, but didn’t know what they were like.
Neilson was brought to the holding area on a stretcher five hours after arriving in emergency.
“When they wheeled me in there I just didn’t have a good feeling,” she said.
She described it as like being in a Third World country.
“That’s what it felt like to me.”
Neilson said there were 10 people in ER area, men and women, with just curtains separating them. Most were on stretchers and there were two people in rooms with isolation signs on the doors.
“The shock came when I found out how long some of these patients had been there,” said Neilson.
Some had been waiting there for three days, five days, a week and she was told later some were there as long as 10 days.
“That really, really bothered me,” she said.
If the wait wasn’t enough, the conditions in the room itself were less than favourable. With just the curtains, Neilson said there was no privacy and she heard things she didn’t want or need to hear.
She never slept and said that would be impossible with so much going on around you and lying on an uncomfortable stretcher.
“I think the most disgusting, deplorable thing was that there was just one bathroom with just a sink and toilet which had to be shared by both men and women. There wasn’t even a shower,” she said.
The only “bright spot” in the situation was the staff, who she said often went beyond the call of duty to relay messages and bring her a phone.
Neilson considers herself one of the lucky ones because after 25 hours in the holding area she was transferred to a room on the first floor
“And then I felt bad that I was going,” she said as other people still had to wait.
Despite being admitted with a medical issue, Neilson was put in a room in the pediatrics unit on the first floor.
Conditions there were not much better as the thermostat in the room was broken and it was freezing all the time.
But again she said the nurses and licensed practical nurses made it bearable.