Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Adventures at St. Mary's Hospital

Returning to Walla Walla was a mixed joy. It was great to be home. Jean immediately checked into the local hospital.

The hospital administrator had abruptly left the hospital, I think he might have been asked to leave, and the place was kind of running itself.

Nursing attention was sparse. I complained to the head floor nurse and her response was that she was working on the hospital budget and didn't have much time for supervising staff.

The tracheotomy needed frequent cleaning. I noticed that the nurse was using straight from the bottle hydrogen peroxide. I remembered reading years before a label recommending a 50% solution. I confronted the nurse and she responded that she was following stated protocol.

I spoke to Dr. McClellan, chief of medicine, he changed the orders.

The final straw occurred when Jean reported that she had been assigned a student nurse to replace her regular nurse. The "nurse" was preparing to make up her bed. She was in the process of transferring Jean to a chair when something distracted her and she instructed her to stand for a minute. Of course Jean collapsed to the floor.

I felt very guilty. I took my wife from one of the nation's top teaching hospitals to this Mickey Mouse operation.

At lunches in the cafeteria I was getting similar reports from the family members of other patients.

Uncle Dave was a member of the advisory board of the hospital. I vented all my frustrations on him and begged him to intercede. He suggested that the complaint might have more weight if it came from a non-family member. He recommended Art Griff, a fellow member of the board.

I unloaded on Art finishing up with the admonition that St. Mary was heading for a sure law suit based on what I was hearing in the cafeteria.

Apparently, Art really shook some people up. The next time I visited the hospital the acting administrator came to Jean's room and told me that things would change and experienced staff would attend my wife.

This was 1985. A new administrator was hired and the hospital has grown and prospered and returned to it's former tradition of quality care. Art was tapped to be on be on the administrative board that actually operates the hospital.

I have related a few instances from a twenty year sequence. Not wanting to offend the AMA and the American Hospital Association further I will take a hiatus from the composition of "Jean's Book".

I salute the staff doctors, residents, and nurses who busted their butts saving their patients lives and making them as comfortable as possible under the circumstances but it is hard to forget some of the foibles that took place on the way.


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