Tuesday, January 03, 2012
New hospital policy not much of a fix
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.
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.