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August 25th, 2008


by Ed Gold

I am a veteran of St.Vincent’s Hospital, with my share of ER visits, procedures, overnight stays and an assortment of operations. So the hospital appeal for a new state-of-the-art medical center sounds good. If the hospital fulfills its plans, I hope “state-of-the-art” will extend to patient transport, which, in my experience, has left a lot to be desired.

I have no complaint about doctors and nurses have been conspicuously conscientious and caring during my recovery periods.

But “transport”—moving my body from one location to a desired destination—has been dysfunctional on several memorable occasions.

First, there was the case of the broken hip. My right leg collapsed as I got out of bed in the middle of the night. I eventually dragged myself to a phone, contacted friends who came over and called for an ambulance, which deposited me at St.Vincent’s ER. Shortly thereafter, an x-ray confirmed a broken hip, and periodically I was visited by a nurse who gave me pain killers. I was advised I would be removed to a room as soon as an open bed was discovered.

I lay in ER for eight hours, with nurses offering encouragement as the hours passed. Finally picked up by transport, I was delivered to a room in Coleman where I found two beds that had been unoccupied all day. The breakdown in communication was never explained.

An army of doctors and nurses paid visits the next day and I was told an operation for a partial hip replacement had been scheduled for the following morning. My internist had lined up one of the star surgeons, Dennis Fabian, who would perform the operation.

The morning of the operation I was informed that I could expect to be wheeled down to the operating room within half an hour.

The half hour passed. No transport. The call came up from the surgeon asking why I hadn’t been delivered since he was ready and had a heavy schedule. A nurse said she would notify transport immediately.

Another 15 minutes passed. The operating team was getting antsy. What was holding things up? Get someone to bring him down!

Transport never showed. Fifteen minutes later two doctors from the operating team arrived at my room, moved me onto a gurney and wheeled me down to the operating room where the surgeon did his work without further incident.

Several years later, I had to have a procedure, one of the effects of which was to put unusual pressure on my bladder, requiring frequent evacuation.

After the three-hour procedure, transport was to move me to a ward in Coleman occupied by a group of one-nighters—people who had had various treatments requiring a cautionary one-night hospital stay.

Instead, my gurney was moved into a bustling ward whose beds were all taken and which featured a steady stream of nurses and doctors moving through the swing doors to the ward. My gurney had been left just inside one of the doors, which bumped against it as hospital staffers completed their assignments.

There I was lying in no-man’s-land when I suddenly needed a urinal in the worst way.No one was paying any attention to me but I spotted a doctor who had helped during the procedure. He recognized my predicament and came to my rescue just in time. After a half hour, a nurse saw the problem, called transport and I was moved to the proper destination.

My most recent experience with transport took place after I had a fall, had severe pains in my lower spine, and entered the hospital to determine the nature of the injury. X-rays had not shown a break but an MRI revealed two fractures in my sacrum; at this point I was sent to physical therapy. The man in charge, Dr. Gary Inwald, showed me how to get in and out of bed with a minumum amount of pain, and he ordered a CAT scan of my back. Radiology was apparently tied up for two days. On Saturday I was told I would be discharged that day and would have to return as an out-patient for the scan.

On duty that morning was Dr.Lam Quan, himself on the injured list–he had been operated on for a bone removal–and was hopping sround on crutches. I told him I had been assured that all necessary tests would be taken before I was discharged. Could he check once more and see if the scan could be performed?

Quan made the call and came into my room.”They will take you if you can get there in five minutes,” he said. I told him I was ready.

“We’ll need transport to get you down in a wheelchair, but we may have a problem. There is no transport on Saturday, so I don’t know how we can get you down there.”

Then he asked: “Can you walk at all?” I answered with a firm yes, waving my cane. Quan smiled. “It’s a real maze finding your way in the radiology complex. If you can walk,I’ll be your escort.”

So this physically challenged newly formed partnership made the pilgrimage four floors below Smith Six, carefully avoiding slippery spots along the way.

Fred Tessero, a weekend x-ray technologist, couldn’t understand why the scan couldn’t have been done earlier. “It takes only five minutes,” he explained.

The scan completed, the problem was to get me back to Smith Six. No one in radiology was willing to walk me back, saying it was too risky. But they found an aide in radiology who hunted down a wheelchair and deposited me in physical therapy. The transport adventure had become an item of interest at Smith Six, and as I entered the department a group of doctors and nurses greeted me with a cheer.

A short time later I left the hospital, still wondering why transport didn’t function on Saturdays, or failed to function properly in other important situations. If St. Vincent’s goes state-of-the-art, I hope its leaders will find a way to include better transport in their plans.

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