No amount of TV stories, news articles, dinner discussions or chats over coffee could prepare me for what I witnessed this week when referred by my local doctors office to take my ailing husband to the ER at Memorial Healthcare in Owosso. What seemed so comforting in the beginning when asked to take him in quickly turned into shock when the sliding doors opened Tuesday at noon to a waiting room overran by sick patients needing to be seen, some more vocal about their wait time turnaround than others. You see as a family who has actively chosen to drive in to Memorial Healthcare for over eight years because of their exceptional care, I was taken back to see a wait room this overwhelmed and a front desk staff disheveled by a chaotic scene on what should of been a very typical Tuesday.
As we quietly took our seats, we realized this was not the ER we had visited so many times before. The staff was working just as hard to see patients, but their faces were noticeably different. Triage felt more like a chaotic series of questions followed by “we are at capacity, you will have to go back to the waiting room,” than “how can we help today.” We were again rushed back to a 30 patient deep waiting room so full they started to line the side hall with chairs of sick people while some patients in too much pain started screaming out for help. We sat in horror as the ER nurse manager with tears in her eyes told a family who had waited far too long in excruciating pain that she had no beds and no where to put their loved one, but that she would do everything she could if they would wait to make sure she got the care she deserved. “We are at capacity, sir.” She went around to every person in the waiting room, passing out pillows, checking on people, apologizing.
The wait was entirely too long. Hours went by. I watched as they ran labs in hallway chairs. My own husband had an EKG performed in a hallway chair sitting halfway up, I thought to myself is this healthcare now in America? It looked more like a war zone med clinic instead of a trauma one center. How is this possible?
We were there for over five hours and never saw an ER bed, let alone a real ER room. We met with an ER doctor from a hallway chair. When asked why this was happening, the staff apologized and said, “we are overwhelmed, there is no where to put all these patients. We don’t know what to do.” I would be remiss if I didn’t say that every nurse, tech, support staff and doctor were amazing. Every one of them are heroes. As my husband told each and every one of them, “I spent 20 years fighting for this country. I’ve been to war. This is what it’s like to be on the frontline. You are doing an amazing job, do not let anyone tell you any different.”
To all of the patients waiting in the hallways wondering what’s going on, I beg you to ask yourself, is all the bickering, fighting about who’s right really worth all of this? Because our healthcare system is at a breakpoint while we are out there fighting amongst each other. The healthcare workers have had it, they are leaving in droves, the sick aren’t able to get care and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for standing on soap boxes of judgment instead of finding a way to pull together as a country and fix this. Tuesday opened my eyes to the fact we need to find new ways to build bridges and find solutions to our healthcare system issues instead of building divisions because our healthcare systems are deteriorating right before our eyes.
Shannon Dunlop, Flushing