Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New hospital policy not much of a fix

Well, this story from today's Victoria Times Colonist certainly does raise more questions than it answers. 

I can't decide which is my favourite outrageous fact - that VIHA thinks things will be fixed now just because its new policy establishes there will be at least two women in any mixed-gender hospital room (how does adding an extra woman prevent a patient from being assaulted by one of the two men who might also be in the same room?), or the revelation that the OLD policy had no provisions for ensuring "patients with known violent behaviour, mental health issues or known tendencies to inappropriate sexual behaviour" weren't being placed in mixed-gender rooms. 

Come to think of it, that last point is much bigger than gender. Is the hospital telling us they don't even consider big stuff like that before packing patients into a four-bed ward with strangers? 
I get that the mixed-gender wards are a more effective use of hospital space, and that there's no guarantee of safety anyway just because you're in a room where everyone is the same gender. But people are really vulnerable when they're sick enough to be in the hospital. They need to know that those in charge have thoughtful and realistic policies and practices for keeping them safe. 

Assault of 83-year-old woman in Island hospital prompts policy change

Mixed-gender rooms to be limited after elderly woman attacked in bed

Vancouver Island Health Authority has said it will limit mixed-gender rooms after an 83-year-old woman with dementia was sexually assaulted by another patient at Cowichan District Hospital.
The woman, who was taken to hospital Dec. 19 after a fall, was in a fourbed room with two men when she was assaulted.
"I can't say enough about how truly horrified we are that this happened," said VIHA spokeswoman Moira McLean.
"VIHA is doing a full review of the incident. We have no tolerance for any sort of violence and we are absolutely horrified this would happen in one of our facilities."
Staff at Cowichan District Hospital were alerted to the assault after a medication alarm was activated.
The RCMP special victims unit was called by staff and a 48-year-old man was placed under guard in another room. The suspect was released from hospital into police custody.
North Cowichan-Duncan RCMP could not be contacted Monday and it is not yet known if the man has been charged.
As a result of the incident, policies and procedures on mixed-gender rooms are now being formalized, McLean said.
The new rules will require patients in semiprivate rooms with two beds to be the same gender.
Every effort will be made to separate men and women in three-and fourbed rooms, but when mixed-gender rooms are necessary, there will be a minimum of two women per room, said the health authority.
"It will also be required that patients in mixed-gender rooms are alert, oriented, mentally competent and have the ability to appropriately vocalize concerns," McLean said.
Patients with known violent behaviour, mental health issues or known tendencies to inappropriate sexual behaviour will not be placed in mixed-gender rooms under the new policies.
The new rules would have prevented the woman who was assaulted from being placed in a mixed-gender room.
Even though the policies are not yet formalized, efforts are always made to place patients in genderappropriate rooms, McLean said. "But at times, if there is high volume, people are put in mixed-gender rooms. It's not uncommon and it happens in hospitals across the country," she said.
At the new Patient Care Centre at the Royal Jubilee Hospital, 85 per cent of beds are in single rooms and the remainder are twobed rooms.
"As we move to replace facilities, that's what's coming down the road, but when you have older facilities like Cowichan District Hospital, Nanaimo and Victoria General Hospital, some are three-and fourbed rooms and sometimes it's unavoidable to have mixed genders," McLean said.


Anonymous said...

Good catch Jody.

Also, exactly how would a "pain monitor" alert staff to a sexual assault?

It's unlikely this woman would have had a pain monitor. It's usually only terminally ill people in excruciating pain during their final days who are given pain monitors (if, by that term, the reporter means self-administered pain pump).

If the reporter meant "call bell" why didn't she say so? And, would a patient with dementia know to ring a call bell especially during an assault by a 45 year old man? Something smells a tad fishy here.

Much more is being hidden than revealed by the Times-Colonist story, and by VIHA.

There are other such serious crimes against patients, especially in nursing homes, that are never reported, and are "investigated" only by the facility themselves, even when their own staff are identified as the ones who committed the act. I am personally aware of several, not just in VIHA but in other regions. Such is the power of health care facilities and staff these days in BC.

Who is to know, after hours when no one other than staff is present to witness what goes on?

Of course VIHA expects the public to believe all will now be well because they have a "policy".

Just like the Ombudsperson Kim Carter expects that no elderly person in BC's residential care system will be disrespected or harmed in any way just because she mandated that a toothless "Residents Bill of Rights" poster be pasted in the hallways of nursing homes.

What a joke. That Residents Bill of Rights is worse than useless. It misleads the public into believing protections are in place, but really "solutions" like this poster (and the declaration that policies are/are being put in place) are in fact smokescreens used to help hide a multitude of crimes against elderly residents.

But the public buys this nonsense, as does most of the media.

Anonymous said...

April 2010:
I was put in with 5 other patients at Jubilee last year, 2 were men, of which one definitely had dementia & so did two of the women.
I stopped one woman from accidently eating before her surgery, orderlies had screwed up on her nothing by mouth order. She had been telling me her medical details & hey, I was a captive audience.
Took the senile woman to the bathroom & back-she had tried to get out of bed by herself-she commented on my unique nurse's uniform-I was wearing a silk Kimono!!
Helped the senile man back into bed when I found him wandering around the room at 2:30 am- I didn't know until the morning shift started that he had wet himself (he was probably looking for the bathroom.)
The diabetic man next to me acted very strange & cursed in an ongoing stream to no one in particular (in my case I found it oddly familiar having listened to construction workers at my Dad's company all my life.lol)
Good thing I had spent previous 19 hours re-cooperating in the emergency hallway, waiting on a bed (Wait- did I just say that??) & was mostly all better (for the moment, but I did have a partial bowel obstruction) & was waiting for 2 consults. I didn't know that the hallway, which had a semi-public bathroom, would afford me more privacy & rest than the hospital room!