Letter to the Editor – John E Milne – A SAD LACK OF SERVICES IN OUR CORNWALL COMMUNITY HOSPITAL – Cornwall Ontario – March 21, 2011

Cornwall ON – Schools are controlled by school boards, hospitals are controlled by hospital boards and that is where we must start our close look at what is happening in our Cornwall Community Hospital.  We must start with the hospital board for this hospital board appears to be functioning as a typical Cornwall parochial group just sitting and talking, talking, talking but doing very little constructively.  The public complaining about high taxes or inadequate hospital services should look at reality.
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Let us just take a peek at welfare of the client, the visitors and the staff.  Imagine you are in the Cornwall Community Hospital, it is an evening, a week-end or a public holiday and you would like a good bowl of soup with a freshly made sandwich, a cup of coffee, tea or a hot chocolate.  In our hospital this is simply not possible. You might wander around and find a machine dispensing pre-packaged sandwiches that are rarely attractive.
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You might find a machine that dispenses, along with bottled water, unhealthy soda drinks or another that dispenses chocolate bars and chips. Guess what, these machines are in the emergency area dispensing goods that are mainly frowned upon by sound health organizations – and this is all that is available for much of the time in our hospital!
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Let us look at another scenario, one in which I am an emergency specialist doctor or a well qualified nurse.  I am looking for a new work position and I am visiting Cornwall with that in mind.  After looking at the facilities afforded the professional medical folk I would simply walk away for there must be many good openings for medical folk that have, as a bare minimum, good facilities providing sustenance and rest away from the job for a short time.  The city may set up all the search committees it desires but they are just wasting taxpayers’ money because who would want to work in such a human resource starved hospital?
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Of course, the board or the administration will trot out the excuse they are in the construction phase and that creates its own problems.  Without doubt the transition stage in construction will cause many problems and some severe headaches but that is why we pay a CEO to do the job.  We should expect nothing less from our hospital board members.  I wonder when was the last time either the top administration or the board members ventured down into the bowels of the hospital where the action is?
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When was the last time they looked into the wards, spent time in the emergency department or the laboratories?  When was the last time any of these people spent fifteen minutes at admissions in emergency?  I wonder if they would even be able to find these locations.
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If these folk would simply station themselves at the entrance doors to the hospital they would have a hard time counting all the people who come into the establishment carrying a tray of Tim Horton’s coffee.  This coffee is not just for the patients, families or caregivers it is also for the staff.  If that is what the public wants why can’t their needs be served in the hospital?
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This scenario should send a clear message to those making the decisions.  But, of course, the people who make decisions first have to see the need.  The Cornwall Community Hospital needs to follow the lead of the Ottawa hospitals and arrange for a Tim Horton outlet to be included in the new hospital set-up.  This decision should be taken NOW while the construction work is under way and not AFTER the construction crews have left.
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It is always important to give impressions from what one has personally experienced.  I can recall, earlier this year, going to the Cornwall Community Hospital in an emergency situation – at a week-end.  The medical attention I received was superb with a good triage nurse, who was directing situations as they arose, and an excellent doctor, who thoroughly explained his findings in such a way I had no difficulty understanding my circumstances.  The problem lay in my having to wait to see these excellent people and what was available to help me pass the time.  I desperately wanted a coffee but that was not available and I dare not leave the hospital because I might lose my place in the waiting line or cause the doctor unnecessary difficulties.
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I exercised my prerogative and waited, suffering the lack of refreshment that would have made my wait more reasonable.  Idle conversation with other patients and caregivers produced expressions of the same unhappiness with the lack of facilities.  Even though, in discussion, I made the observation that the hospital was still under construction, the point was clearly made this hospital has never considered the non-medical needs of people.  Sure there are dedicated volunteers, a hospital cafeteria and an excellent auxilliary.  But when is the cafeteria open or the auxilliary in attendance at their gift shop?  Certainly not during holidays, in the evenings or at week-ends.  Accidents and illness have no timetable so the services offered to those using the hospital should be available whenever there is a need, 24/7.
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I know it is easy to complain about what is not being done but unless we, the public, speak up then there will be no improvements in the services available to staff, clients and visitors.  It would seem the simple resolution is for the CEO or the Board to get into consultation with Tim Hortons to see what is required for them to install a facility in the hospital.  To be sure I am not taking sides with a particular commercial entity but observation shows, by what they bring in themselves, just what the public and the staff choose and Tim Horton wins hands down.
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I wonder why it is that the public can see the deficiency and the hospital board and its administrators are blind to what is needed?  I am sure it would not cost the hospital any of its much needed funds to have such a facility and, if my experience with this commercial entity is anything to go by, Tim Hortons is a very generous company that takes into account, first, the public need.  Someone just has to talk, then do the necessary  homework to find out what it would take to get such a service facility in our community hospital.  The hospital is not there so that a CEO can get a good salary or to give some selected members of the public a place to sit and shoot the breeze.  It is there to provide a total experience for those in need of medical help – and to treat the visitors and staff in a like manner.
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The hospital administators and the hospital board seem to have forgotten why they are there.  It is not just for the patient but also those giving the sick and injured the care that is needed.  Everyone in this process, whether a patient, a nurse, a doctor, a family member, a care-giver or a volunteer, needs a modicum of service that goes beyond the highly proficient medical care elements that make up a hospital environment.
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It’s time for those making the decisions to wake up and make life a little more pleasant for everyone in the medical community and the public they are supposed to be serving.
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John E. Milnes,
South Stormont
(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)
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