Sunday, June 29, 2008

Stay Far Away

Anytime one visits a hospital, unless it's to congratulate a woman who has just given birth, there are always at least one or two mini-incidents that remind us to appreciate our health and the health of our family and friends. Whether it's coming across someone being wheeled into the emergency room or seeing people hobbling through hallways with rolling IV stands, hospital visits are never fun.

What's worse than seeing sick, unfortunate people in a hospital is visiting a hospital that is dirty, cold and unwelcoming, and run poorly.

This past week I spent some time visiting my grandmother, who just had surgery, at Mount Sinai Medical Center at 101st and Madison. I've visited doctors affiliated with Mount Sinai so, as a result, I've had tests at Sinai. Further, I completed a program held at Sinai; finally, I've had family members -- not just my grandmother -- who had surgery at Sinai.

So this visit wasn't my first time at the hospital. However, I hope it's my last.

It all started when my grandmother was taken to the hospital and scheduled for relatively minor surgery. Because of her advanced age, however, we were concerned that the surgery would be performed well and she would be okay. I'm happy to report she came through the surgery very well; she's recovering slowly but we anticipate she will be almost as good as new.

Unfortunately, there are some ancillary issues with the hospital that really hit all of us. First, when she was originally taken to the hospital on Wednesday night, she was taken to the emergency room. Because of the kind of hospital Sinai is, the emergency room -- especially at that time (around 7PM) -- was filled with people from Harlem and Washington Heights. We didn't see any gunshots but we got to experience life above 96th Street. Further, because of some administrative bullshit, the hospital staff would not admit us in to see my grandmother because they said the shift was changing as of 8PM and no one could enter the emergency room to visit with family until then. My mother came out of the emergency room to bring me in and we were both stopped and advised of this rule. We returned to the admission desk and they told us again that we would have to wait until 8. My mother, raw from having to deal with the situation, was slowly unraveling, so I quickly advised the administrative people that because she was my grandmother's legal proxy, she was to be with her at all times. When they continued trying to give us the same bullshit, bureaucratic "Sorry, you will have to wait until 8PM" I responded by advising them that whoever prevented her from being with my grandmother would have to answer to a lawyer via deposition and, if necessary, in a criminal hearing.

They whisked her right in.

Meanwhile, I waited until 8. While waiting, I found and used the men's bathroom, one of those single-person hospital bathrooms. Where to start...the smell, the litter, the toilet paper strewn around the floor... The old adage about restaurants is that you can tell everything about a restaurant by visiting the bathroom. When it comes to hospitals, visit one of the bathrooms on the main floor -- that will tell you everything about the institution.

Once 8 came, we spent some time with my grandmother before being asked to leave an hour later (what kind of hospital tells people they have to wait until 8PM to visit their relative and then leave at 9PM?).

The next day we visited with her for awhile and confirmed surgery would be held the following day; they advised us they would try to schedule her surgery first thing in the morning, so we were hoping for a 7:30 AM start. However, the hospital had to reschedule it to noon. So we waited. Sure enough, they had to re-schedule it again so it was re-set for 3PM. However, by 2PM, we had still not been able to confirm the surgery would start at 3. So when 3 came and went, we were a bit on edge. Of course, my grandmother didn't complain about not knowing when this surgery would be held, but if I were her, I would have been pretty unhappy about them jerking around the start time. I would not have been as relaxed and friendly with the hospital staff knowing I was being bumped throughout the day.

Finally, my mom confirmed they had taken her for her surgery, and three hours later we confirmed she had come through very well. So we left for a nearby restaurant for a quick hour-long dinner before returning to the hospital. She was out of it and we wanted to make sure she got plenty of rest, so we split for the night.

The next day we spent mostly with her, although I was the first to arrive. She was uncomfortable and they ended up giving her lots of painkillers. The day after, she was a bit better and was sleeping a lot.

Overall, she came through really well and for that we're thankful; but the one thing we took away beyond our relief she's okay and on the mend was the fact that the hospital, and many people that are employed there, are awful. She's got a few nurses that seem to really care about what they're doing, but there are several floating around nearby that are, clearly, disinterested and apathetic.

Since she's still recuperating, there's certainly more to this story as yet to be told, but today, at some point during my four-hour visit, I ventured to the bathroom nearby and -- not surprisingly -- found the toilet paper strewn around the floor, accompanied by an empty box of Colgate toothpaste. Worse, someone apparently decided it was appropriate to smoke a cigarette in the stall. I saw the door was closed so I waited for this shitbird to leave so I could identify him if I saw him again. But when I saw him, I figured I could either have security remove him from the premises or forget about it. Anyone dumb enough to smoke in a hospital bathroom wouldn't understand why -- beyond the fact it's illegal -- that it's dangerous and inconsiderate. All I know is that the focus of why we've been going through all this is my grandmother's health, and I'm focusing on that. It's just disappointing that the hospital in which she's recuperating is such a shithole.

In either case, the moral of this story is avoid Sinai at all costs. Whether you wind up at Lenox Hill or Beth Israel or even Columbia Presbyterian, I can't promise you'll have a better experience or receive better treatment -- but if it were me choosing the best and the worst hospitals in this city, I know where Sinai would be listed -- at the very bottom.

...That is, once my grandmother is discharged and can, finally, go home.


Roberta said...

Hey Boog...

I'm sorry that your hospital experience was so bad. I'm glad that your grandmother is getting better!

The shift change/no visitor thing is pretty common. Same thing happened when my dad had bypass surgery last fall--they kicked us out at 5:45 and said we could come back at 7 (both am and pm).

Having worked in healthcare, I know that shift change is tough and, while frusrating for family members, is better for the staff. It lets them focus on what happened during the other shift and to talk to their patients.

Hang in there...sounds like your grandmother (and you!) is doing great! :)


Boogie said...

Hey Bubbi...

I understand the shift change thing -- and I agree it makes sense -- but the first problem is that they should have, in theory, escorted everyone out of the emergency room at 7 (or whenever the off-hours began) but they didn't, so there were a bunch of people floating around the emergency room area that were visiting patients even though they weren't supposed to be there. Plus, the other issue was my mother is my grandmother's legal proxy, so by their blanket policy of preventing people from going in might have created an issue -- there were aides and nurses and even doctors asking my grandmother questions she couldn't answer. Had they not gotten an answer as to allergies to medications or whatever while the administrative people were hassling my mother, they might have gone ahead and given my grandmother meds that could have created a serious problem. I'm sure they get plenty of aggravation and lots of people don't understand or care for their policy, but to keep people out and then let them in only for an additional hour seemed sort of shitty, and the attitude with which they advised us reminded me of being at the DMV (which is not a good similarity, incidentally).

Overall, the people working with her and caring for her are good people, so I can't complain, but between the attitudes and the lack of cleanliness overall, we've been pretty disappointed and are thankful her surgery went better than has the maintenance of the place overall.

Either way, thanks for the support and checking in...I'm sure we'll be celebrating her release soon, and I'll keep you posted :-)

Roberta said...

Plus, the other issue was my mother is my grandmother's legal proxy, so by their blanket policy of preventing people from going in might have created an issue -- there were aides and nurses and even doctors asking my grandmother questions she couldn't answer. Had they not gotten an answer as to allergies to medications or whatever while the administrative people were hassling my mother, they might have gone ahead and given my grandmother meds that could have created a serious problem.

Completely agree. DPOAs should ALWAYS be let in. Fortunately, my dad was able to tell them all that stuff beforehand and it was all in his chart for when Mom wasn't around when he was looped and during shift change!

I don't know why visiting hours there are so short. We were allowed in anytime, except in ICU. That had defined hours (that I think ended at 11pm). Who knows?

At any rate, I hope she continues to improve and goes home SOON! :)


LisaBinDaCity said...

I hope your Grandmother is doing well...

As to cutting through the bureaucratic b.s.? Bravo, my friend! Well done. And I will definitely avoid that hospital in the future.

Boogie said...


I agree -- the power of attorney thing trumps attitude, policy and the other miscellaneous bullshit that permeates people whose sole responsibility is to say no. Honestly, the place reminded me of the DMV, not a place to restore patient health.


Avoid ALL hospitals in the present and the future, but that one specifically :-)

To you both...

She was released and she's back home, relaxing, healing and glad to be out of there ;-)

Thanks for the support and the kind words, 'tis always much appreciated :-)