After the initial shock of contracting a serious infection and finding myself confined to a hospital bed for a number of weeks, I had ample opportunity to observe and experience what it is like to be a patient instead of a physician.
Once I was on the road to recovery and somewhat mobile, the nurses, members of housekeeping, the laboratory, physiotherapy and other departments involved in looking after me were eager to share both the good and the bad of their role in the health care system and suggested I write about their frustrations in trying to do a good job.
I could fill many pages of how difficult it is for many to remain positive in an environment of stifling bureaucracy.
I will take just one example where two different regulatory bodies have made decisions affecting many of the frontline personnel in a negative way. I am sure that the people in charge did not mean to make life difficult for those who are essential for the efficient running of the hospital, but they certainly did. And what is worse, is that once the negative impact became clear, very little was done to correct the situation.
The issue is parking for employees, visitors, daycare patients, physicians and visitors, each with their own set of expectations, conditions and problems. There has been some grumbling in the media, both nationally and locally, mainly advocating that parking should be free for all as part of our medicare benefits.
If my information is correct, there are currently 460 hospital parking spots. Half of these are allocated to staff and the others specifically to physicians, emergency parking and visitors.
Under ideal circumstances, the staff would need 75 spots more to accommodate their needs and these cannot be easily found.
Currently an employee can apply for parking privileges, but more often than not has to wait weeks, if not months before there is one available from an employee who is moving, retiring or found other employment. Even then parking is not guaranteed, since there are 30 more parking passes in circulation than available parking spaces.
The full-time employee has $11.53 deducted from their paycheck bi-weekly for the pass. That is around $280 per year, just to come too work without a guarantee they can park their car.
If an employee parks elsewhere for the full fee, they still will get a $48 ticket. That is on top of the $280 per annum for the parking pass.
All too many times an employee will arrive and find absolutely no parking spot. In the recent past, they would then turn around and park on the neighbouring streets. The local residents did not like that, and apart from verbal and written abuse, some irate home owners even resorted to defacing the vehicles.
This shortage of parking spots was mainly a problem in the early morning, with change of shifts.
The neighbourhood residents pressured council in instituting a two-hour parking limit in the streets surrounding RMH to deal with their unhappiness.
Council accommodated the complainers, but created a new problem for the RMH personnel. That forced employees to park a considerable distance away and showing up for work late, inconveniencing the nurse or other employee anxious to get home after a rough night shift, looking after patients with a skeleton staff. No matter who arrives early to secure a spot, there will still be 30 people out of luck.
On a slightly happier note, since last week, another 12 stalls have become available for the employees, as union organizers had placed two trailers in precious parking space in case of a strike. That threat has been removed and I find it ironic that the very organization claiming to protect the interests of the hospital employees made life more difficult for them.
Back in October, there was a vague promise of more space, but so far nothing has come of that.
So far I have only written about the quandary of the employees, but there are different problems for the physicians, and if they dare to park in a different area, they get a $84 ticket. That will be reversed after a lengthy process – one that should not even exist.
And then there are the visitors. There are times there is no space available.
• Public transport – not easy or convenient. No prospect to accommodate the peak hours of shift change, but in principle is doable.
• Make a private deal with some of the residents around RMH to park your car on their premises for a fee, similar to what some of the Royal Columbian’s employees do.
• The vacant lot on the corner of Laity Street and Lougheed Highway could accommodate quite a few vehicles until such time that the space would be developed.
• Free parking for an hour, and if you need longer, then you pay a small fee .
All in all, the current situation is far from satisfactory and sooner or later most of us will have to use the hospital and want to be looked after by cheerful and valued personnel.
Dr. Marco Terwiel is a retired family physician who lives in Maple Ridge.