Health care facilities……they may be missing the point


Wouldn’t ya know it……?  Just when I get old enough that I don’t care if my bum is hanging out, the X-ray department of the hospital provides a pair of full, light-cotton trousers instead of the half-cover, open-at-the-back Mr. BUTT smock of yesteryear.  I was surprised at how disappointed I was.

I came out of the dressing room to be greeted by two young and one mature woman who took me down the hall.  One of the young women was behind me.

“Sorry.  Nothing to see anymore.”


“You know…….in the old days………we used to get those revealing little smocks and would have to walk around clutching it closed with our arms behind our backs for modesty?  Did you guys get them changed to trousers or did the patients finally rebel?”

“I am sorry, sir.  I don’t know what you are talking about.”  And she looked at me as if I were mad.

The X-ray technician was older.  I asked him.  “I can’t remember when we changed over but it doesn’t surprise me that you are at that age where you just don’t care anymore.  A lot of people would get like that as they got older.  We’d have old people wandering around with both arms free and the smock acting more like a loin cloth than anything else.  Had a few doofuses who put it on backwards with the opening in the front.  Did it on purpose, I am sure.  Old guys.  Some of them smiling, as I recall. 

“I think the change must have come from staff.”

I hurt my back last year and finally decided to get it X-rayed.  Firstly, I thought it would heal on it’s own but as much of a factor as my optimism is, my pessimism about hospitals is probably greater.  I hate ’em.  So, I waited a long time to get it checked out.

Honest to God – medical facilities all look and feel dirty to me.  Like cheap motels in bad parts of Southern California.  Unclean in the extreme.  And usually the service is abysmal and way too many friends of mine have come out worse than what they were going in.  And that kind of generated fear and revulsion is not the feeling you want to have when they are poking and cutting and probing you.  In motels or in hospitals!  ‘If I am gonna get probed, damn it, you better be really damn nice and really damn clean! And that goes double when in a health care facility!’

That’s my new motto when speaking with Health Care professionals now:  ‘When probing, be clean and gentle’.  And I start with that spiel at reception!

I used to run a medical clinic in skid row, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.  Our clients were the ‘rubbies’ and ‘detritus’ of society.  The dregs.  The forgotten.  The untouchables.  But we’d touch them.  And we did so gently and with respect.  Admittedly, it was not always reciprocated but, by and large, the Downtown Clinic was a very important part of the lives of the city’s sick and rejected.  We did good.

But one of the ways we did good was by being service-oriented and knowing what each patient needed.  One of those things – needed by all of them – was cleanliness and simple but attractive decor.  I had a guy full-time on washrooms and door stoops, stairs and railings.  Lots of horrible stuff would accumulate there if we (he) wasn’t on top of it.  Today’s hospitals aren’t so careful.  The last one I was at, the washroom looked like it belonged to a non-chain gas station on a bad highway.  I try to make it a point never to touch anybody or anything when in a hospital.  Especially washrooms.

Honest, I’d wear a hazmat suit if I could.

We’d also paint the clinic every year to eighteen months.  Helped keep the feeling of clean anyway.  The doctor’s offices and the hospitals I have been forced to visit now and again are always the same.  No paint job.  Ever.  Smears that were on walls last year are still on the walls this year.

My current doctor’s office also has no windows.  Not one except the front door.  Nothing opens to fresh air but the door.  There is a huge maze of little closet-rooms all along dirty-smeared walls without a window to open.  It is literally a horror show.  I stand outside in the rain until it is my turn.

You might think me mad or hygienically obsessed.  I am neither.  But here’s my point:  When I lived in the city I got the usual flues.  I got an occasional cold.  Caught a bad burger-on-the-go now and again, too.  I’d estimate I got sick, on average, three times a year.  I felt ‘bad’ but still productive another three times at the very least.  Even though I was as healthy, it seemed, as the next guy, I could also rely on being sick every year for one reason or another.  Sal and I have been here eight years and have never been sick.

Well, we have been sick.  I could be lying.  But I don’t think so.  Whenever we are ill it is always after having been to the city or on an airplane.  If we don’t go to Vancouver, if we don’t set foot in a hotel or an airport, if we don’t rub our presence up against the hoi polloi, we remain healthy, unsick, vital and even suffer fewer less-energetic days.  OK, we get tired more easily but fatigue ain’t illness.  We are, in my estimation, 5 times healthier living here.  I swear.

Only exception: going in to see my doctor or going for a test at the hospital.  Makes me sick just thinking about it.



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