On Tuesday, January 19th, Nova Scotians woke to hear an Edmonton woman’s complaint over unsanitary hospital conditions in Halifax.
Shelley Vaughan came to Nova Scotia to donate a kidney to a stranger. They were matched via the Canadian Blood Services living donor exchange program. This was a truly selfless act by Vaughan.
The surgery was conducted at the Victoria General hospital. Vaughan told the CBC that during her four-day stay her floors were dirty, the sides of her bed were dirty, the bedside table was smeared with something and not cleaned, her bed linens were not changed, her bathroom wasn’t cleaned, there were holes in privacy curtains and the walls, and that a dog was brought in to check for bedbugs!
Thankfully Vaughan put her observations and experiences in an email so they are formally recorded.
See the story here:
In response to Vaughan’s complaint about the VG’s Third World conditions, Karen Mumford, senior director at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, responded to each problem cited by Vaughan with the phrase, “This is not our standard of care.”
Mumford summarized the situation by saying, “Many of the issues that she had outlined in her letter to us would not be our expectation of what would happen in our facility.”
What does Mumford mean when she says “This is not our standard of care”? It may not match some ancient written policy, but because it happened it is their standard of care. It is the reality of what patients have long experienced at the VG. Pretending the hellish conditions in that facility don’t match some mythical policy allows these unacceptable conditions to continue.
People who have survived being a patient at the VG know all about the VG’s Third World conditions. Their family and friends know it. The staff know it. But executives pretend any negative experience is a one-off lapse. Well, in the era of social media, when people can – and do – share their experiences we can find legions of people who say otherwise.
In 2010 I wrote about a hospital cleaner whose sister-in-law had a double organ transplant at the VG. Because infection is such a concern, the cleaner was upset that her sister-in-law, who had an open wound, was placed in a room with dried blood on the walls. She spoke to the VG cleaners about the room conditions. After five days of waiting for someone to do something she took antiseptic wipes and cleaned the blood off the wall herself. When she showed the dirty wipes to the nurses the nursing supervisor told her she had no right to do that and only the next-of-kin could request action.
In May 2013 a retired Kentville businessman had pancreatic surgery at the hospital. He was placed in a four-bed ward for a week to recover. The washroom was so disgusting you wanted hip waders to enter it. The floor was constantly covered in a pool of water. Portable chair toilets would be brought to a patient’s bedside and left, for hours. There were no signs anywhere warning visitors or staff not to wash their hands with the toxic tap water. Every surface seemed grungy.
More recently a doctor’s wife told me of the filthy conditions of her husband’s room when he was in the VG for surgery. A cancer patient, who has had multiple Halifax hospitalizations, added his experience with consistently poor cleanliness, which is a serious threat to people whose immune systems are already compromised. I have heard other stories, but these ones were written down.
Health executives can claim that such conditions are “not our standard of care”, but reality says otherwise. This disgusting situation has been the VG’s reality for years.
A Post Script: It’s worth reading this infectious disease expert’s thoughts on the VG’s cleanliness.