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.