Providing necessities of health care

Putting a patient into the shower room is not a good idea

Editor, The News:

Re:  (B.C. Views, Feb. 18).

As a registered nurse, I read with interest the above article and wonder why it is so unbalanced?

In the opening paragraphs, Tom  Fletcher refers to the B.C. Nurses Union as “feeding horror stories to the media,” referring to a patient “assigned a bed in a small shower room for a month due to chronic overcrowding”.

Then he says, “Hospital officials said his care was not compromised”.

Let’s consider this for a moment. A Unless I am mistaken, most shower rooms are moist, warm, even if not used for some time, which would make them great breeding grounds for bacteria, virii, mould and fungi, not to mention odour from other showers. It is not an isolation room for an infectious person with negative pressure to prevent contamination of the area outside the room.

Let’s assume that a hospital bed has been put into the room, near the call bell. It would almost certainly not work as a proper modern hospital bed as there is unlikely to be an electrical supply in a shower room, which is not the same as a bathroom, so the bed would not raise, or head tilt without manual adjustment.

Let’s also assume that the patient is a person with an illness or has had major surgery, otherwise why would they be admitted to hospital, not just for a day or so but for over a month?

People in hospital are there because of a health issue – unless they are employed there or are visiting. That means there should be oxygen and suction readily available, usually on the wall behind the bed. There may be access to a telephone or a television. None of this would occur in a small shower room.

Bearing in mind that this person was in hospital for a reason, what if that person had a medical emergency in the small shower room?  How would the staff know and what could they do about it?

A small room would likely have only one door, bed against the wall, probably with the head of the bed against another wall. If a patient needed emergency intervention, where is the space to get behind the bed to maintain an airway? Or to the side of the bed to do cardiac massage while someone else is giving intravenous medications.

The fact that the patient was not physically compromised is possibly the aspect to which the health official was referring. Even so, care of a patient is not just about the physical person but also the psychological well being of the person.

How would you feel if this person was your parent? Your child? Yourself? I am pretty sure that you would not appreciate it, even though you might have a ‘private room’.

Then there are also the patients who are physically able to shower but cannot do so at a reasonable time because the ‘small shower room’ is now a bedroom. Paraphrasing Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” people tend to feel better and recover quicker when their safety and well being needs are met. All those negatives compromise care.

Mr. Fletcher conveniently seemed to forget that, in previous bargaining, the agreement was that registered nurses would work more hours per year in order to fund 2,025 full-time equivalent RNs to have more nurses at the bedside. It seems he is not alone as few of those nursing positions have been created and filled.

The BCNU members agreed to work more and the Health Employer’s Association of B.C. agreed to create the positions. Only one side has kept their part of the legal contract.

Registered nurses have a professional duty to speak out against situations which impact ability to perform nursing care – it’s called advocacy and is an essential part of nursing.

On another issue, Mr. Fletcher refers to the mother bringing her ‘young child to ER with a cold.’ If you contact 811 and speak with one of the RNs from HealthlinkBC or even if you check your own symptoms using the website, it is likely that you would be advised to see a doctor within an hour or at least within 12 hours, depending on other circumstances.

Comments like Mr. Fletcher’s discourage people from obtaining medical care when there is a valid concern and the only available option in the middle of the night is the ER.

Paddy Kopieczek

Maple Ridge