Our Unfinished Business show featured an interview with Scott Wisner, a social worker who has the tricky task of dealing with families of patients who can't make decisions for themselves. I also visited Darcy Fitzpatrick, who turned a bad experience at St. Clare's Mercy Hospital in St. John's into a blog that got a positive response from the powers that be. Both interviews generated some strong reaction from you.
Fitzpatrick's blog inspired many of you to complain about the health care you've received.
"I listened to your 1st story about telling medical people you have a problem with service - how else are you going to know? WOW - talk about a defensive attitude. I was treated VERY badly at (name withheld). I called to complain and was told what happened to me was "impossible". I wrote to patient services. She checked with the hospital staff, and again I was told what I described was not possible.
"I finally sent a registered letter to the hospital. I met with the head of the hospital. Initially, he seemed skeptical about my story. I showed him notes I had taken about my experience. I couldn't talk as I was in tears the whole time and shaking. He read my notes, clarified a few points and we parted. Shortly after, I received a note of apology and the hospital head agreed to correct the problem his staff member had failed to correct.
"I told everyone at the hospital that it took a registered letter and my firm resolve not to let this slide to get them to listen and take me seriously. It's not as simple as "tell someone". It also took months of my life living with a dominant hand that could not move correctly.
"That's from MY side of the gurney. The 1st doctor, by mistreating me, caused me to be off work for almost 1.5 yrs instead of 10 weeks. What happened to me is unimportant. Trying to get the "white coats" to listen when they set up a white wall is very hard. THAT is the point."
From: Sam Cuttell, Melbourne
"What a great show! My family has had many meetings with the health care system. Our two biggest concerns are finding people who listen and care. Eighty percent of the nurses were good or great but most of the new ones, (even the senior nurses and doctors) are mystified at how their training affects their attitude to patient care. You have touched on many of our concerns and we appreciate your take on moving the care to a more patient- centered system that is more efficient. Thanks again for your work."
From: Scott Page
We also got some strong reaction from people who deliver the care that generated so much heat.
"I have just retired from being a phlebotomist (a technician who draws blood for testing) at a hospital which included a large pediatric population. My career spanned 41 years. I challenged nurses when I thought important test were not included on critical patients. On one occasion, a pediatric kidney specialist told me that I was more "on the ball" than his resident trainees for confronting him about vital tests omitted on a critically-ill patients. I have had many mothers weep with thanks for my skill for being successful at getting a blood sample after many unsuccessful attempts by other staff members.
"My point is that you trivialized the task of drawing blood. I know that it isn't the job of an overworked resident for they were usually poor at the task and never knew when to stop trying. I was always very aware of my humble status in the hospital hierarchy. I look forward to listening to your show every Saturday morning. You always sound so grounded and "human". On today's episode you encouraged people to vent their issues. I just did."
From: Diane Smith, Hamilton, Ontario
"I listened to your program today and was intrigued by what was said in the first part of the show, when you were talking to the gentleman from Newfoundland who was poorly treated in the ER. It certainly wasn't the first time I have heard complains such as his, about our health care system, but his struck me today, for some reason. As a paediatrician, I was appalled when he referred to the fact that patients are routinely given medications or tests and not told why. In my practice, I would never consider giving a patient a medication or ordering a test without explaining my rationale for doing so. I also communicate my thinking to the nurse caring for my patients, so that they can help the patient understand their treatment when I'm not around.
"To do otherwise earns doctors a false sense of entitlement. Patients and their families should be informed of all treatments and investigations. I appreciate the emergency room can be a hectic place most of the time, but it should only take a bit of time to explain a treatment plan. As well, patients should always been given the opportunity to ask questions before accepting a treatment. An informed patient more trusts, more cooperative, and more likely to be comfortable with the treatment plan.
From: Susan Campbell, MD, Oshawa, Ontario
Also on the show, we updated the situation with Jen Romes, a woman who had locating her mother's whereabouts after her mother was admitted to a nursing home. Jen's father - who as substitute decision maker had the power to act on her mother's behalf - ordered staff at the long term care facility not to divulge to Jen her mother's whereabouts. Jen's father later relented and gave permission to release that information to Jen.
That recap generated this email from Mike Rother, a lawyer from Toronto.
" I just heard you mention your show on medical privacy again. There is a bigger privacy issue. Why is it that each time we go to our doctor, a testing centre or even emergency, we are called by name rather than being given a number as at any baker, butcher or government office?"
Mike, that's a short yet succinct question. I think it's right on the money and yet I have no good reason why such a casual violation of patient privacy is permitted.
Many of you commented on my interview with Scott Wisner, a social worker at The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto.
"You talked about talking with your parents when everyone is still able to make good logical decisions, before the crisis happens. This is a great idea, and something that we did. There is, however something to add to that. Write down what that decision is, and get everyone involved in the conversation to sign it.
"When we talked with our parents about what to do with them when they got too old to take care of themselves, they said that when that time came to just move them to an appropriate care facility. Now that they are getting to that stage of their lives, they have forgotten that and now say they only time they want to be taken out of their house is in coffin. It would be much better if we could show them written proof of what they decided when they looked at the issue when everyone was thinking logically and not emotionally.
From: Gordon Enns
That's true enough, but I'm not sure that decisions written down would be any more binding than those made orally.
Thanks to all of you for your great comments.