Canada, COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Health, Montreal, News

A Micro View of COVID’s Burden On Hospitals

In the immediate aftermath of the 2020 year-end holiday season, the COVID-19 statistics in Quebec continue to be at alarmingly high levels. Both the number of infections and the number of deaths attributed to the virus rise every day. It would appear more folks went a visitin’ during the festive season than are admitting it; scofflaw politicians aside.

In light of these rising numbers, the government has initiated a ‘shock therapy’ approach. As I recently wrote, this includes a serious lockdown and a curfew. There are many things to fear during a pandemic, not least of which is the burden on the health system. At the best of times, the system is close to bursting, throw in a couple of thousand COVID cases a day and it is not long before a rupture occurs.

This was the case in one institution, but if similar walkouts happened in other hospitals it is clear the system was hamstrung even before things turned dire.

My wife has a dear friend who works in a Montreal hospital as an x-ray technician. When the pandemic first hit, in the early spring of 2020, not wanting to have anything to do with it, several of her colleagues with compromised immune systems went on extended sick leave. This was the case in one institution, but if similar walkouts happened in other hospitals it is clear the system was hamstrung even before things turned dire.

As an example of the strain put on the whole system, one of the aspects of my wife’s friend’s job is to bring portable x-ray equipment to patients unable to be moved. Think of bringing the mountain to Mohammad if you will. If the patient shows signs of COVID-19 and is coughing, before taking the x-ray gear into the patient’s room, there is a process of suiting-up in what is essentially a hazmat outfit. 

The outfit requires two people to put on properly. The second person is responsible for checking that all is properly sealed, and ensuring that all steps are undertaken. The technician then, looking a bit like Bib the Michelin Man, goes about the business of x-raying.

During this time both she and her colleague, as well as the machine, are not available for other patients.

Once the x-rays are done, there is an extensive disinfecting process to be undertaken. This again requires two people. Not just the machine, which is almost dismantled and decontaminated, but she has to undergo a serious regime of discarding robes, gloves, masks, and then washing herself. A key role played by the second person is to make sure the technician washes her hands after each step: remove gloves, wash hands; remove robe, wash hands; remove face shield, wash hands, and so on. Bearing in mind that proper hand washing is a twenty second procedure, it is understandable how this takes anywhere from 40 to 50 minutes.

During this time both she and her colleague, as well as the machine, are not available for other patients.

That’s just one person in one hospital. If you extrapolate that to the entire health system, it is obvious why there is a fear of increasing numbers.

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Health, Humor, Montreal, Opinion

Emergency Room 1 – Walk-in clinic 0

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Over the last decade or so my body has decided that a mere cold is no longer good enough for me. Nope; for reasons known only to itself my respiratory system has determined that a cold just isn’t a cold without a serious whack of postnasal drip.

But this year my body has outdone itself; resulting in me having a good old bout with pneumonia. The current version of uncontrollable coughing, hacking, expectorating, and fever has developed to a degree that medical attention was required.

I’m not one to abuse the medical system. In fact, I probably should see more doctors as I get older, but they scare the bejinkers out of me. So last Wednesday when I told my wife I was going to the local walk-in clinic she knew something was wrong.

I arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex just before 9:00 a.m. Having a wicked cough, I put on a mask and registered. I was told to take a seat and the nurse would call me soon.

Taking my place away from most folks lest I cough on them, I looked up and realized that they were now “serving” number seven. I was number 52.

Sure enough within mere minutes I was called. The pleasant nurse checked my vitals and asked why I was there. When she was satisfied I was unlikely to drop dead, she gave me a piece of paper with my number on it. She explained that if I downloaded an app and paid $4 I could register to be informed by text message when I was close to the top of the waiting list. I declined, instead taking my place in the waiting room. I mean, how long could it be?

Taking my place away from most folks lest I cough on them, I looked up and realized that they were now “serving” number seven. I was number 52. To make a very long story short, at 3:00 p.m. they called me. I went into the examination room I was shown to and, you guessed it, waited another hour before being seen by a doctor. That’s seven hours!

The doctor then spent all of five minutes with me: listened to my lungs – fine, looked down my throat – fine, checked for fever, found none. With my lungs clear and no signs of imminent death, I was sent home with a prescription for a cortisone nasal spray.

Fine and dandy.

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The next day I used my spray and felt a little better, at least clearer. That afternoon I met up with some friends for a beer or two. When my wife picked me up on her way home, I was very tired and coughing to beat the band. When we arrived at our apartment building, she suggested that if I didn’t show some signs of improvement the next day I should consider a hospital visit. I mumbled agreement and started up the stairs to our apartment. These are three significant flights of stairs that no visitor has ever failed to comment on. I got up the first level and knew immediately that was as far as I could get.

… during that time, along with waiting, they did blood work, took chest x-rays, and performed an EKG. I saw several doctors, nurses, and technicians

My wife turned to me from the floor above and all I could say was “Let’s go now”. So off to the Royal Victoria Hospital emergency room we went. This would be another six-hour session, but during that time, along with waiting, they did blood work, took chest x-rays, and performed an EKG. I saw several doctors, nurses, and technicians.

The result was a diagnosis of pneumonia and a prescription for super-duper antibiotics.

It is now day six on the antibiotics and I am feeling much better, but not 100% yet.

I understand that the system of walk-in clinics is to lessen the load at emergency rooms but until the service rendered at such clinics improves, it will only serve to delay the ER onslaught.

So far it’s Emergency room 1 – Walk-in clinic 0!

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Canada, History, Humor, Montreal, News, Nostalgia

Tubes, pneumatic and otherwise, still play key role in hospitals

On a recent visit to the Montreal General Hospital (MGH) I noticed on the wall an old pneumatic tube station, no, not like the London Underground. If you’re not familiar with the concept, pneumatic tubes, or capsule pipelines, are the system that department stores once used to send money to and receive cash back from a central cashier.

Mind you, when you think of tubes in hospitals these message systems may not be the first things that pop into your head, or up your nose for that matter.

They have been in use since the mid-1800s playing an important role in moving small items from one place to another in many settings including factories and hospitals. Mind you, when you think of tubes in hospitals these message systems may not be the first things that pop into your head, or up your nose for that matter.

Looking a bit like something from a Jules Verne novel, the old tube station in the MGH pictured above is located behind a locked glass door to make sure only those trained get their hands on it. The photo on the right is a modern version.

The new health centre will be so vast that materials will sometimes have to travel distances of 1,000 feet and many stories up or down.

At first I thought that with the Internet age the pneumatic tube would be a thing of the past. Emails and texts offer instant communication over any distance, but I was wrong. The Montreal General Hospital is part of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and as such will be relocated  to a new, state of the art, abode once construction is compete. Will they be retiring the tube system for a more modern method? Nope. In fact according to a hospital newsletter a magnificent pneumatic tube network is being built into the new building.

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The directions above are posted (in both French and English) at all tube stations.

With an estimated 5,000 transactions per day, the tubes will carry blood, medication and emergency items to medical professionals.

The new hospital will be a cutting-edge academic health centre filled with the latest and most modern equipment to improve both work flow and the delivery of care to patients. Among these innovative pieces – and probably the largest one of all is the pneumatic tube system.

With an estimated 5,000 transactions per day, the tubes will carry blood, medication and emergency items to medical professionals. The new health centre will be so vast that materials will sometimes have to travel distances of 1,000 feet and many stories up or down. Therefore pneumatic tubes will help deliver critical items, medicine and even blood quickly.

Below is a picture of the new MUHC pneumatic tube system.

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Users can even program the pneumatic tube system to prioritize certain capsules that need to be received or analyzed quickly; the system can then slow the progress of all other deliveries to prioritize a specific one. Only authorized personnel will be able to use the pneumatic tube system.

The directory pictured below was last updated in 1984, and appears to have been created on a typewriter …

Directory

So, as the saying goes, until someone invents a better mousetrap …

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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