A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A VETERAN in THE NEW AND (un)IMPROVED STE. ANNE'S HOSPITAL
One day, earlier this week, I decided to keep a mini-journal of my experiences, "for the record". The day began like most other days (since we were handed. over by The Government of Canada to that of Quebec), with breakfast being served almost one hour later than should be the case, because of insufficient staff. This, in turn, caused delays and even cancellations of other scheduled appointments and activities further on, with consequent consternation and confusion for me and, especially, some of my more fragile fellow-Vets.
Next to arrive , was a new-ish nurse with my medications, and for the third time in as many weeks, I found that (the same) med was missing, and had to bring that to the nurse's attention, as she had apparently not had enough time or training to thoroughly check my dosage dossier.
It was no big deal for me, because I am, fortunately, still adequately alert and reasonably vocal enough, to rectify such a situation in timely fashion....but what of those of my comrades who may not be quite as cognizant, attentive and verbal as I ?
Then came a lone orderly, new to me, but with one month on the job, well-spoken (albeit in French only), who was sufficiently self-conscious of her lack of experience, to ask me what I needed done, to prepare me for the day. That was reasonably acceptable to me***, rather than, as has been too often the case with other "new"orderlies, to have them burst in like the proverbial bull in a china-shop, leaving complete chaos in their wake. But again, how are similar situations being handled by some of my buddies who neither understand nor speak French, even as fractured as mine ? How can they possibly communicate their needs and routines to a unilingual, novice nurse or orderly, especially if they are too challenged or fearful to be able to express their wants, let alone object to their treatment, in whatever language ?
***[Notwithstanding, I must confess to an increasing weariness on my part with having to deal, every damnable day, with so many floor personnel who are still using training wheels, and are only truly qualified for a "Learner's license". I didn't sign on to be their teacher/supervisor !].
Following that, with a blood pressure machine in tow, there arrived an "old guard " nurse who, while normally on nights, was today (yet again) called in for special day shift duty, to fill another one in the seemingly ceaseless stream of short-of-staff spots. Her major complaints centred on the incessant, continuing conditions compelling her, and her colleagues and orderlies, to be constantly changing wings and floors, as well as shifts, causing the employees to have a sinking sense of instability, compounded by irritability, further resulting in riding roughshod over her patients, exacerbating their existing timidity and insecurity, fueled by their inherent fear of the unfamiliar and the unexpected.
She has, as indeed I have from the outset, placed the blame for the current crisis in the staff situation upon the Province's deliberate policy of replacing virtually every one of the previous (Federal) full-time nurse and orderly positions with two half-time jobs . It is said by some apologists that Quebec's reason for this major change in our staff structure, was to achieve greater efficiency, but the consensus among those in the line of fire, is that the true motive was to save mounds of money, by not having the obligation to contribute to pensions, sick leave pay, paid vacations and other pricey "perks" mandated for full-time personnel. That may be so, superficially, but the negative result is that too many employees, now hired for only two or three shifts per week, and thus unable to provide for their basic needs, are compelled to seek a second job elsewhere. As a consequence, they are usually unavailable when called in to replace "no-shows", leaving yawning gaps in service and
causing inevitable collateral damage to the high level of service publicly pledged to me and my housemates, by Veterans Affairs Canada.
As well, these part-timers,primarily new hires, inevitably develop little or no loyalty toward Ste. Anne's or its patients, as they fast come to consider this as "just another job". Moreover, since they are treated and referred to more as numbers, rather than by name, they tend, in turn, to treat me and my band of brothers more with indifference, than within a common culture of care and compassion, which previously existed. It may indeed be , that "What happens in Vegas , stays in Vegas", but it is equally true that WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR STAFF, STAYS WITH OUR VETERANS, as one is the inseparable, interdependent Yin to the Yang of the other.
My next visitor was a third and highly qualified, experienced nurse, who bemoaned the frustrating fact that her shift, which normally called for five orderlies, was short-changed by having only three report for duty, ( for a 40% staff shortage !), creating a far heavier work load for her than normal, amid the additional frenzied preparations obliging all the employees (but one), to leave the floor for duty at the monthly "Community Luncheon" in the auditorium. She shared with me that she has for so long been upset by, and "sick and tired"of the current, ongoing dreadful state of affairs, with its negative impact upon her work and added stress upon her well-being, that she is very seriously considering quitting her job, much as she would hate the thought of "abandoning my Veterans" after so many years in their service. But she feels that her ongoing fatigue and irritability could cause her to make mistakes, be short-tempered with her staff and patients, and lose focus just whe
n she might need it most. All to the detriment of her cherished charges.
My next notable encounter was with my new Doctor, in whom I have every confidence as a competent and caring professional. Her major drawback, however. Is the new (Provincial) protocol, which makes her available to me, or any one patient on any given floor, only one day per week,( barring an exigent emergency), rather than much more often, as was the practise in the past. The disadvantages to me, and my confreres, of such a restricted regimen , is self-evident.
The last "event" of the day, was the full-cycle appearance on the scene of still one more, fresh-of-face and noticeably nervous new orderly, assigned to prepare me for sleep, who almost laughably queried, "What should I do, sir?".... The only part of that question that I did not bristle at, was the nostalgically satisfying sound of "sir".
Over the course of just this one day, I was subject to a full range of the root circumstances and experiences encompassing the basic ills besetting me and my beleaguered brothers and sisters, in what is being publicly, but improperly, proclaimed as a successful and "seamless transition". We are facing the onslaught of our very own, non-Biblical, version of "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse : Staff Standards, Staff Training, Staff Shortages and Shifts, and Staff Performance, to which I would dare add yet a fifth and sixth "riders", namely, lower Staff Values, and severe Staff Malaise.
I have treated with these plagues before, but like the self-same Bible, it bears reviewing daily.
These actual incidents encompass my litany of the acts and facts contributing to and culminating in the veritable violation of those specific terms of the Transfer Agreement, which were designed to guarantee my/our rights to a continued, undiluted, undegraded level/standard of care at Ste. Anne's Hospital.
Sad to say , my typical day is a clear manifestation of that failure, and I unhesitatingly forecast that conditions will continue to deteriorate, failing drastic intervention by our erstwhile guardians at Veterans Affairs Canadami, as time "progresses", and as increasing numbers of civilian patients are transferred here, from other Provincial facilities, to fill all four of our empty floors.
By then, the (in)famous Transfer Agreement, might just as well have been writ in invisible ink, which can only be brought to life again by the might and ministrations of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs.
So fasten your seat belts, Ladies and Gentlemen, it's going to be a bumpy ride !
NE KAH NE TAH
Wolf William Solkin
Ste. Anne's Hospital
MORE AMMO FOR THE BIG GUNS.
Hi, Michel: as a precursor to your meeting of the Transition Committee, come June 14th, I had an unexpected and fortuitous visit to my HQ, just yesterday, from a very fine, but palpably perturbed lady, Micheline Beluse, whose father, is a WW II Veteran here at the transferred (and transformed) Ste. Anne's Hospital.
Ms. Beluse had inquired about whom she should approach for assistance, and was referred to me , rather than to the Residents' Committee or the Ombudsman, as an advocate with possible influence and some integrity. After she had recounted her story, I requested that she commit the gist of it to writing, so that I could vouch for its validity, if challenged. What follows is a verbatim, true transcription of the brief letter she willingly penned, in my presence :
"10 June 2016
Went to visit my Dad,Marcel Beluse, at lunch time on Tuesday, and two of the residents complained that their lunch (the meat) was inedible. They were quite vocal about it in French and English - no offer to replace the meal was made***. The meal was already 45 minutes late, and one of the residents had left the (dining) room having lost his appetite. As I was leaving one of the two residents approached me and said--'WILL YOU SPEAK FOR US, PLEASE ? WE NO LONGER HAVE A VOICE', This was the most distressing thing I have ever heard. The poor man was distraught and was pleading with me. He also said they were afraid to say anything".
(Sgd.) Micheline Beluse
***[such an offer is supposed to be, and previously was, standard practise].
There is little or nothing I could possibly add to this absolutely angering and terribly tragic exposure of the innermost feelings of serious sadness and hopelessness, pervading among far too many of our hapless Veterans.
It gives me no satisfaction whatsoever to know that I had correctly anticipated and announced such an outcome, among others, following the by-now legendary but, I trust, discredited "seamless transition". The only satisfaction I could ever possibly derive from such a scenario, would come, if that day ever arrives, when I can, happily and gratefully. no longer deem it necessary to publicly air similar sorrowful stories, and devote my iPad to "the good stuff", instead of inspiring only tears and fears.
I need now take the liberty, on my own behalf and that of many other of my fellow- Veterans at Ste. Anne's, to express heartfelt thanks to Ms. Micheline Beluse, for her courageous initiative and strength of purpose in standing up, publicly, to safeguard the rights of her father and his companionate Veterans, (myself proudly included), currently "confined to barracks", for the duration.
NE KAH NE TAH
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The The Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran, One Standard Team.