Last month, due to a case of clumsiness, I was forced to go to the emergency department of the Lakeshore General Hospital as stitches were definitely needed on my left hand. First and foremost, I have to say that the care, treatment and professionalism by the staff, nurses and doctor was top notch — it was the time that it took to have the necessary care administered that was horrendous.
I arrived around 6:45 p.m. and noticed the parking lot wasn’t too bad. Upon entering the emergency waiting room, the number of people waiting also wasn’t too bad. I was triaged and processed quite quickly so I figured that perhaps at the outside I should be out of there by 9:30-10. I was right about the time; unfortunately it was 9:30 a.m. — the next morning — when I was called in for treatment. I was out the door at 10 am.
From 7 p.m., time moved forward but only a trickle of people was called forward. The only names being called were those who had joined the pool of patients. Factor in the arrival of ambulance cases, which, rightly so, are priority one, this added up to no more names being called from the waiting room as the night grew long. What came to light was the backlog grew due to the fact that there was only one doctor on duty. Patiently, we all attempted to pass the time waiting for relief.
While I was in discomfort, I felt worse for others, especially a gentleman who had a head injury from a rollerblading incident. There he was, head bandaged, bloodied and only triaged. That amazed me as I figured it would be a no-brainer that he would be seen. One family, with the dad in a wheelchair accompanied by his wife and two children, approximately eight and 10 years of age, were all still hanging in around two in the morning when names started to be called again — but not for treatment. Those being called back to triage got the explanation that there was only one doctor and that people would probably be attended to in the morning.
With that information, several patients, myself included, decided to roll the dice, head home, grab some semblance of sleep and come back in the morning, confident we would not be called and then have to start the process over.
I returned just after 7:30 a.m., some 13 hours after my original arrival. It was difficult for me to see the rollerblade victim wrapped in a hospital blanket dozing away in his chair — not always a good thing when a head injury is involved. I saw a few others who remained the night as they may have not had the option to leave and come back. Others began to trickle back in and the waiting area was a snapshot of how it had been a dozen hours earlier.
A new day, renewed hope and, yes, patients began to be beckoned to treatment rooms. While our 13-plus hours of waiting pales in comparison to wait times others have suffered through, this malaise needs to be dealt with. This situation plays out often, not just at Lakeshore but hospitals throughout the province. Long waits to be seen should be the exception, not the norm.
Mark Lidbetter is The Suburban’s sports editor.