Hallway Medicine – This shouldn’t be the new normal
Prior to my wife being admitted into a Hamilton hospital, I had heard the term hallway medicine, but I must admit I didn’t really pay attention. I wish I could say I had rationalized it one way or another, but I didn’t. I just didn’t really give it much thought.
One early Sunday morning everything changed.
I woke to an unexpected medical situation with my wife. She had knee replacement surgery four weeks earlier and developed complications.
I called 911 for an ambulance for the first time in my life. They arrived within ten minutes. They made an assessment and she was soon on her way to the ER. I drove my vehicle and arrived just as my wife was being admitted into an ER room.
I was happy with my decision to call the ambulance. She was getting much needed medical attention. She spent the night in the ER room. The next morning, she was admitted to the hospital to be treated for a blood infection, one that the specialist told us is fatal in 30% of people.
It puts a scare into a person.
Just shortly after receiving the news of the infection we were told she had to be moved out from her ER room.
Into the busy ER hallway.
My wife struggles with anxiety. Now here she was, left in a hallway, still dealing with confusion from medication and symptoms of the blood infection.
We were about to experience hallway medicine firsthand for another THREE days.
We don’t need a special inquiry or report to confirm that hallway medicine is not good. My wife’s hallway bed was less than four feet from a quarantined curtained room where medical staff could only enter when properly covered. When the cleaning staff came to clean the soiled diapers from that room, they put the special waste container less than two feet from my wife’s bed. My wife’s bed was about five feet from the bathroom door that was accessed by patients all day and night long. While in the hallway my wife had to have a minor medical procedure on her new knee to remove fluid to see if it was also infected.
They did this in the hallway, just feet away from all sorts of possible infection sources.
No one can convince me that this is even close to the way our hospitals should be forced to be administered.
There may be places in the world where there’s no choice but to have hallway medicine. Ontario is not one of those places. We don’t have to add stress to patients when they’re trying receive treatment and recover from whatever put them there. We don’t have to put the added stress on our healthcare providers to have to deal with their patients in hallways. Nothing good can come of it.
We live in a developed country. We’re a G7 country. We have one of the strongest economies in the world. There’s no reason hallway medicine should exist in Canada, in Ontario. Something has gone wrong when on any given day in Ontario there are at least 1,000 people receiving their healthcare in a hospital hallway. Hallway medicine has become normalized. For some reason we’ve come to accept it as the new normal. We can’t allow that to remain so. We have to reverse this trend. Our priorities need to make it a thing of the past.
I commend the medical staff and the treatment my wife received in the hospital despite the hallway medicine situation. They were caring and diligent. I commend them for their efforts. They’re under a lot of stress, a stress that doesn’t need to exist in Ontario.
I’m not a healthcare expert. So, I don’t know how to correct the problem. I understand it’s a complex system. It’s not a quick fix issue. But I do know there are experts out there. The OHA (Ontario Hospital Association) has prepared A Balanced Approach to Ending Hallway Medicine for Ontario Patients and Families Pre-Budget Recommendations: 2019 Ontario Budget.
It’s a good place to start.
I wrote this piece as part of my desire and commitment to be part of the solution and to create a greater awareness.
Let’s end hallway medicine.
Note: The above picture I took of my wife in the hallway was used with her permission because we both recognized that, though it may not be the most flattering picture, it captured her stress and anxiety perfectly.