It cost me $12 to get a seat in Royal Jubilee’s emergency ward waiting room last Monday. Not a comfortable seat. Rather, one surrounded by Victoria’s halt, lame and partially blind waiting for an overworked doctor or nurse to ease their pain after hopefully diagnosing its cause.
The $12 charge for the right to wait four to five hours for pain relief is resented, but that resentment does not extend to the quality of medical care that emergency patients eventually receive. I know they get the best care doctors and nurses can offer and that our medical services plan, while not as free as government likes to suggest, makes it affordable.
It’s the charging of $1.50 for every waiting hour I find inexcusable. And for the record, I feel the same way about the parking charges squeezed from people visiting sick friends confined to hospitals and in need of good cheer and friendship to help them in their fight for better health.
I was such a “visitor” to emergency last Monday, just the driver and helping hand for an old friend in great pain from a hip complaint. We had been forwarded from her doctor’s surgery. He felt emergency would be the best way to find out what had happened to cause her left leg to crumble like a broken wing whenever she put pressure on it. Walking was impossible without a human crutch to lean on. The pain intense.
It was around one o’clock on Monday afternoon when we checked in, followed the green dots from registration to the waiting room where an ominous notice board greeted newcomers with a warning that the average waiting time for treatment would be four to five hours. The room was full, every chair occupied. A wall notice requested that people not requiring treatment refrain from occupying seats needed by patients.
We were lucky. Within minutes a seat became vacant.. It gave me time to seat my friend and head for the parking lot to feed the first of a small fortune of one and two dollar coins into a voracious meter offering two hours for $3.
Ever the optimist I paid for two hours at a dollar fifty an hour. At three o‘clock I paid for another two; at five two more and at seven after a final installment I had one hour left on my final ticket when we left for home just after 8 p.m.
Nobody offered me a refund for the unspent hour.
The waiting room crowd of sick and injured grew as afternoon merged into evening and the warning of a four to five hour wait changed to five or six. High on one wall a flat screen TV offered the Trump-Clinton debate – without sound. I suppose one could regard that as a bonus.
The only other distraction from personal woes was the steady arrival of men and women, young, old and middle aged with broken limbs, hobbled walks; some in wheel chairs like an elderly gentleman of Chinese descent having trouble with a bloody nose. A Saanich policeman chats with him and stays alongside until he’s suddenly surrounded by family, likely his elderly wife, a daughter and grandson age around six or seven who puts on a delightful “invisible magician” show for the old man – and the fascinated crowd of walking wounded. For a few minutes a child has made them forget their pains and problems. The applause is quiet but spontaneous.
Over to one side a silver haired lady sits wrapped in blankets. On one of my meter plugging runs her companion has wheeled her outside where she sits majestically, triumphantly, smoking a cigarette. I get the impression that the cure for whatever ails her will be defied.
And through all the seeming chaos and muffled conversations the doctors and nurses move quietly and efficiently but the crowd never seems to diminish. Our turn comes, my friend is checked out, x-rayed, blood tested and told we can go home with a sobering admonition to take a new medication to reduce or eliminate the pain “as directed and if it doesn’t work check back in to emergency.”
There’s no verdict yet on the new medication and no sure diagnosis of the cause. But there’s always hope. We have organized a home care program. It’s far more expensive than a hospital stay – which may well become necessary – but its “home.”
And there is no charge for visitors.