Friday, January 16, 2009

Mount Sinai: A Pig Sty of a Hospital

Microbiology is the study of teeny, tiny organisms, too small to see but can cause big headaches. A microbiologist specializes in microbiology, helping to control infectious diseases, like Dr. Donald Low of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto did during the SARS crisis. The media love him and his colleague. Too bad they can't clean up their pig sty of a hospital.

For some reason, I seem to be seeing doctors at Mount Sinai these days. And they all want my blood. But I finally balked at going to Mount Sinai's blood lab. I've had enough of that place. Give me Toronto General Hospital's (TGH) clean, efficient, and excellent vampire clinic any day.

It's bad enough having techs who look at that nice, fat vein on the side of my arm and think hey, I can poke that. Uh no. Not unless you want me at your feet. Go for the one hidden inside the crook of my arm, I suggest. They look at me as if I've just suggested they crawl into a coal mine. They use blood-taking needles that hurt like hell; some labs specialise in giving forearm-long bruises. The TGH vampire clinic though not only can take my blood without bruising me, they also started using butterfly needles to ensure my face doesn't go white. But the thing I hadn't appreciated about them -- and all the other labs, private and public, I've been sent to -- until I became acquainted with Mount Sinai's blood lab is how very clean and hygienic they are.

Mount Sinai's lab is situated in a hall outside the Sanctuary at the top of the escalator. (What dim bulb thought sticking the waiting area for the blood lab in the middle of a hall was a good idea?) It's dimly lit. That way you don't see how filthy the seats are. Hundreds if not thousands of asses have flattened old chairs and ground grime into their fabric, changing their colour. Last time I went, two vinyl or leatherette chairs had been added, not quite so obviously grimy. I perched. Waiting time is too long to stand. Before you can perch though, you're pointed mutely to a number-dispensing machine that's been obviously well used and touched by all the sick people who've come to get their blood taken; you're expected to touch that germy surface with your own finger to get a number as calling you by name reeks too much of respect apparently. You give one half of the print out to the person behind the counter and keep the other half. There's a display up high on the wall. Sometimes you'll see your number there; sometimes it's called out. Problem is, if you see it, do you know where to go? I don't. Lastly, I'm not real impressed with the casual way the techs handle things after they're supposed to have either put on gloves or wiped their hands with antiseptic lotion. Once they've gloved or cleaned, they shouldn't be touching anything other than the vacuum tubes and the needle until after they're finished taking your blood. Hah!

This is so important because basic hygiene, especially washing hands with soap and water, keeping surfaces clean, and emptying those bins filled with waste from physical exams regularly, is the best prevention against picking up an infectious disease; in hospitals that's especially important because that's where superbugs first developed and where you're most likely to get sick. It's a matter of safety!

And now brace yourself because I'm about to vent on what is truly disgusting about that hospital: bathrooms.


I got so pissed at the disrespect the hospital admin accords us patients that I took cellphone shots at 1:53 pm. But I only pointed it at what my own stomach could tolerate.

On the decent end, I've seen toilet paper on the floor, used, wet paper towels around sinks, empty toilet rolls with a spare one tossed in a corner. At the revolting end I've watched a well-coiffed, expensively dressed member of society come out of one, leaving it so nauseating there's no way I can describe it. I took one step in and swivelled 180 degrees. (It reminded me of the time in Greece when I went into a public facility just before boarding a boat for a day-long cruise, saw the poop that had missed the bowl, and discovered I had superhuman bladder control.) No one was going to be cleaning that up for at least 3 more hours, I knew. When I asked the secretary where else I could go -- assuming the doctor didn't have the time to wait for me to cross the street to use TGH's facilities -- she had to think about it, not because there are so few, but because they're all repellent. It was a matter of which one wouldn't make a person want to hurl. You want a staff member to spit nails, ask about the bathrooms. (I do wonder at the nauseating bathroom habits of some people and what state their own bathrooms are in.)

Now when you're seeing a doctor or going for tests you don't always have the option of exercising stunning bladder control. They may casually say, "void your bladder first" and will know when you haven't. So you can't always avoid Mount Sinai bathrooms.

Why are they so bad? Apparently, they are cleaned only once a day, at 5 o'clock. Try to imagine how many people use a bathroom near the doctor's offices, the public multi-stall ones in the halls, or the ones in the main areas. Then think of how often restaurants clean theirs (every 10 minutes in some cases or at least hourly) vis a vis the numbers that use them. And now comprehend the contrasting and amazing situation of the hospital of Dr. Donald Low -- microbiologist to the media -- swabbing their bathrooms only once a day.

2 comments:

canadagood said...

Ewww. I have a fairly strong tolerance for bathroom messes (I am a guy) but not in hospitals or blood labs. Labs bathrooms are usually immaculate since they know that people creating a variety of samples (to write it politely).
I have provided far more than my share of blood samples and have almost convinced myself that it don't hurt if I don't look. I also have appreciation for a lab tech who really has the soft touch. My sympathies on the techies who took job in crappy place since their skills not up to scratch.
I did not realize that Toronto has so many hospitals. Whats with the "Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Health Complex" bit? Are we now naming Canadian hospitals after any rich with non-Madoffed assets? Just like all the art galleries, business schools and parks are now getting renamed after people with more money than brains?
Sigh. Thanks for the rants.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

The lab bathroom at Mount Sinai was not as bad as the ones elsewhere in the hospital, but I wasn't thrilled with using it either.

I too appreciate a lab tech with a soft touch, and TGH has lots of those!

Mt Sinai is the king of naming rights, I gotta say. But it is a trend in all of them. TGH has this ENORMOUS banner on its building for a named cardiac centre.

Mt Sinai is along what we call Hospital Row. North of it is Princess Margaret Hospital, a cancer hospital. Across is the behemoth Toronto General; south of TGH is Sick Kids and south of Mt Sinai is the main location of Toronto Rehab (I went to its Rumsey Road location for neuro outpatient, very nice, like being in a small town). In the east are two Scarborough hospitals and Toronto East General. North is North York and Sunnybrook, one of the trauma centres. St. Michael's near the Eaton Centre is the other trauma centre and also gets many of the homeless. Then there is the Toronto Western in the west end, which is where to go if you have a stroke. And St. Josephs. There is also the orthopaedic and arthritis hospital. Phew. Sure I've forgotten a couple. And I was just reading one of the reasons EMS times is up 44% is because there aren't enough beds to allow paramedics to drop off their patients and go to the next call. They have to wait.

Most of these hospitals are connected to the University of Toronto, so are training grounds for our doctors and nurses, and they also serve patients from all over the province. So I usually have to endure questions by a resident before even seeing the doctor. Not too bad if the resident is smart...