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Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Medical Twilight Zone

Has the universe ever tried to communicate something important to you (in a variety of ways and through different people), but you decided you were not ready to learn that life lesson yet?

I’m a private person. And although professionally I am quite public, I value my personal space and have been resisting issues around that particular sensitivity for a number of years. It’s ego-centered, and no doubt part of my, “What will the neighbours think!” upbringing.

That was until I stepped into the medical twilight zone.  

For approximately one and half years after our family switched family doctors, I couldn’t for the life of me change the doctor on record at the hospital. This was during a challenging period when our family’s hospital visits were often weekly.

I personally visited the health information management department on the hospital’s first floor and filed an official complaint. I also phoned several times, explaining that our new GP wasn’t part of the information loop—and besides feeling like my personal business was being hung out on an old line like dirty laundry—this missing link was impeding our medical care.

But month-in, month-out… visit after visit…. the old doctor’s name kept showing up.

Until, the ODDEST thing happened….

Five months ago, I sat at the intake cubical in Emerg with a young RN who looked at her computer and commented, “So, your doctor’s name is ‘X’”.

“No,” I responded, while stifling a laugh and surprising myself at finally seeing the humour in it all. “He hasn’t been our doctor for almost two years now,” I smiled.  

My guy was then admitted for a short stay and on discharge day, I showed up promptly at 12:00 to find him fully packed, grinning from ear-to-ear, ready to be sprung.

We immediately buzzed an attendant and asked for discharge papers. The attendant said he couldn’t locate the paperwork, so he’d have to track down the nurse who happened to be having lunch. The attendant returned again, and informed us, with a perfectly straight face,
“Your nurse said she already gave you (he points to me) your discharge papers.”

Well, NO we explained patiently, we haven’t received any paperwork, and after about a frustrating thirty minute discussion, the conversation at the nurses’ station got a little heated.

Finally, the charge nurse leaned over her desk and yelled, “You have your paperwork, go home!”

And in that intuitive moment, I replied, “YOU have discharged the wrong patient.”
Sure enough. Like a Monty Python script playing out in front of us, red-faced nurses realize they discharged the old gent who was staying in the bed next to my guy.

He wasn’t supposed to leave. But at 10:00 am that same morning, they packed up this senior, told him to go home and gave his wife (who they thought was me) all of my guy’s personal info, prescriptions, etc.

While we sat at the nurse’s desk waiting for new paperwork, we watched the kafuffle and heard the charge nurse yell again. This time she was on the phone with the old gent’s wife, “Bring your husband back; he wasn’t discharged!”

Just to set the record straight….The other couple in this mix-up was not similar in any way; they were of European decent with heavy accents and at least 20 years our senior. Also, it is hospital policy for every patient to wear a wrist band with their name and birth date on it… which according to policy, is to be removed before the patient is discharged. 

Breech of confidence? Yes. So, on our exit, I made a quick detour to the first floor again and shared this story with a big-eyed clerk who took copious notes.


Breech of privacy? Absolutely! But also one of most hilarious life events I could ever create. Life lesson learned. We’re all connected anyway, and in the end, what does it really matter what your friends, family, neighbours know or think.

2 comments:

laura said...

Thats Nuts! lets hope the guy didn't take any of the wrong meds!

Anonymous said...

Rick Mercer Report: ONLINE PRIVACY

My business… your business… is NObody’s business.

http://www.cbc.ca/mercerreport/

Canadians aren’t that stupid.