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ER doctors are silently overworked

Janet Pole | Interrobang | Opinion | January 16th, 2006

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
Through a rather weird series of co-incidences in the past little while, I now have a frequent flyer miles card to the ER department here in London and Sarnia. I do not watch the TV show ER but I can tell you that the LHSC ER and the Sarnia General ER are pretty quiet places in general vs. the one depicted on hit television series. But one thing is for sure: the people that work here in Ontario, from the desk clerk right down to the specialists on call have one thing in common; they work their asses off as they cannot keep up. They are paid well, but not enough. But they have no choice as a deficit of family doctors and super-crowded walk in clinics have turned Emergency Rooms into a veritable doctor's office.

Trip # 1 was a frightening occasion — I landed in the ER after breaking my tailbone. On the positive side my doctor that evening was quickly nicknamed Dr. Handsome. But unfortunately, while I was waiting for my x-ray, a 300 lb. naked man escaped from the psych ward and ran screaming through the halls, convinced that flies were eating his eyes. Nine security officers and five police officers were trying to control him while my mother and I hid in our bathroom. NO ONE gets paid enough to deal with that kind of person. I do not mind paying OHIP premiums at all, since we have the best health care in the world right here in London. But I don't think that a person should have to hide with their mother in a bathroom because fourteen people cannot keep one patient under control.

Total Time There: 9 hours, 14 minutes.

Visit # 2 was to Sarnia General where Dr. Kim (another cutie) had the pleasure of removing a rather large chunk of broken glass from my heel (I could not bend over to take it out myself due to my broken tailbone) Then I got the lecture about waiting to come in to have the glass removed, but he understood that I did not want to go to the London ER and wait. He also noticed the gash on my other leg from my fall down the stairs the previous evening. (I am not good at walking on tippy-toes down carpeted stairs) he decided her should stitch that up too.

Total Time there: including time to let the Lidocaine freeze up and to put the stitches in, 41 minutes.

Trip #3 —I had foolishly decided to get my navel pierced. Why? Hell, I don't know: no one is ever going to see it with my jelly-belly. All was fine and dandy until the night the drunken fools from next door came home and one of them smashed/wobbled into my door. The cat (who likes to sleep on my stomach) freaked, clenched her claws as she jumped and took half of my navel with her. I tried everything to keep the new piercing from getting infected: rubbing alcohol, Bactine, tea tree oil, but no luck. Off to the ER we go for the 3rd time in a month.

After five hours, my doctor told me he would have to burn the area with silver nitrate. “Now, Miss Pole, this is really, really going to hurt,” he told me.

So as I lay there taking the punishment, Doogie Howser asks me why it is not hurting or why I am not flinching. “You want pain, doctor?” I replied. “Come spend Christmas with my family!” The doctor had to leave the room to stop laughing, but returned shortly to finish the treatment.

Total Time: Just over 5 hours.

You may wonder why I am telling you all this stuff but the medical care system in Ontario has to change. Walk-in clinics with doctors who don't know you from a hole in the wall trying to do their best but they have no idea of your background, or medical history. So thousands end up in the ER (or St. Joseph's Urgent Care) since they have no other place to go to deal with their medical problems. We need our government and a Ministry of Health to clean up the problems. But it starts from the top and vote on January 23 and let it trickle down. Next time you end up in an ER, do as I did; sincerely thank you doctors and nurses for their help. It can be one small gesture that can make a special moment in their very, very, very long day.

Janet can usually be found on her off time at the Landon Branch of the London Public Library, her favourite hangout spot and #1 charitable recipient. Email her at
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