Almost two weeks ago Julianne became very ill with flu-like symptoms.  But she didn’t have a fever so we thought, perhaps wrongly (apparently a fever is NOT mandatory to have H1N1), that she probably didn’t have H1N1.  A couple days later she was really sick and having some trouble breathing so we headed to the hospital.

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The first contact people in the ER are two clerks behind a counter, and one to two security guards who monitor incoming patients and people.  Considering the hype over H1N1 I was surprised that there wasn’t a person at the door taking everyone’s temperature as they entered the area.  Instead, the security guards hand out masks to incoming people . . . but didn’t seem to be giving them to 100% of the people entering the ER area.  (Also, inside the ER area I only saw about 60-70% of people wearing their masks, some incorrectly, and no one seemed to be asking the people not wearing masks to put them on.)

Since the security guards act as first contact people (after the two clerks) in the entrance of the ER they had sterile masks.  Some of them wore them correctly, while others wore them around their neck with the nose and mouth uncovered . . .

Considering the fact that a security guard comes into contact with EVERY PERSON entering the ER I was rather disgusted with the guards not wearing their masks.  If they did have H1N1 they could be infecting patients and visitors to the ER . . .

Anyways, more on this after I continue the story . . .

Julianne gave her alien registration card, national health insurance booklet, and hospital info card to the two clerks at the desk who then waved us through to the ER doors where the security guards pass out masks.   We were handed masks and then walked through to the open treatment area (open as in there are no private rooms or wall dividers between each area and everyone sees everything that is taking place while you talk to your doctor–there are curtains but they are rarely pulled around the patient).

Before seeing a doctor Julianne was seated in the hallway where a nurse with excellent English asked her some preliminary questions.  But when she tried to call up Julianne’s registration file on her computer we found out that the clerk at the front desk had failed to sign Julianne into the hospital as a patient–uhm, hello patient in-take procedures? I wonder why he didn’t enter her into the system . . . the nurse looked puzzled and did what should have been done earlier.

It was around this point that another nurse walked up and asked me to sign the ‘friend/family responsibility for patient form’ that you must sign if you’re the person coming in with a patient.  It says things like: take care of personal belongings, be with the patient at all times, and other things along those lines.

Anyways, Julianne was having  a hard time breathing and when the nurse found this out she hooked her up to a heart rate and blood pressure monitor.

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After asking Julianne and I several questions and typing the info into her computer, Julianne and I walked into the open diagnosis area where there are four or five desks with computers and doctors sitting at them.   Each desk is beside a bed where the patient sits while the doctor asks them questions.

Some of the doctors had masks on, and others didn’t.  Our doctor didn’t wash her hands or disinfect them before beginning the consultation with Julianne.  Albeit she didn’t touch Julianne during the diagnosis ‘interrogation’ (there were a LOT of questions) I am still surprised that this isn’t a common practice before seeing each patient . . .

One thing that surprised Julianne and I (as opposed to our previous visits to the ER) was that the doctor was using a list of diagnostic questions from a window on her computer screen.  Some of the medical vocabulary in the questions was ridiculously high level and the only reason Julianne and I knew the definitions was because Julianne’s mother was a nurse, and I’ve had my own share of life experience and exposure to medical terms.  If we hadn’t, there were at least 7 questions if not more that we would not have known how to answer.  It would have been really “interesting” at that point to see the doctor try and explain to us in ENGLISH what she was trying to ask, lol, sigh!

Julianne hooked up to the monitor and sharing an “I hate coming here” look with me.

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This is my “I really really HATE coming here!” face . . .

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After finishing up the insanely long and difficult diagnosis Julianne was sent to get an X-ray to make sure she didn’t have pneumonia.  We waited about 20 minutes, which is quite good I think, and during that time Julianne just wanted to go home and rest.  To cheer her up and try and get a laugh I made a joke that we should sneak into this room and ‘play doctor’–heheheh.

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One of the patients that went ahead of us had a badly broken leg.  Hearing her whimpering and begging the X-ray technician to stop moving her leg while they X-rayed it was hard; we both felt really bad for her.

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After hearing the poor woman with a broken leg the little bit of energy Julianne had began to crash.  This is her “I really really want to go home now” face.  I rubbed her head and tried to help her be more comfortable.

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Finally it was Julianne’s turn–I tried to sneak a shot of the room . . . it didn’t work as well I was hoping, lol.

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After the X-ray was done we headed back to the diagnosis area where we were told that Julianne’s X-ray was clear.  The doctor then told us she was going to prescribe medicine and that we should go sit down and wait.

Back outside the ER and in the waiting area I became really INFURIATED with the freaking security guards standing at the entrance to the ER area.  Both weren’t wearing masks. One was sneezing and coughing, touching his face without washing his hands after, and then HANDING OUT MASKS to new patients/friends/family entering the ER….and then I saw another guard PICK HIS–yes, I’m going to swear here–FUCKING NOSE and then hand out masks to incoming people…

I went and asked a doctor to order the guards to put on their masks (they were wearing them on their necks), and asked her to explain to them that as first contact personnel they were at HIGH RISK for infection, and then passing the virus on to each person they pass out masks and talk to entering patients and people throughout their shift.

The real kicker was that a cancer patient with an IV bag was sitting about 10 feet away from the guard sneezing and coughing without a mask on. I suggested to the doctor that she might want to tell the CANCER patient that she should wear a mask while sitting right beside the main entrance area of the ER…you know, the whole chemotherapy thing compromising your immune system…yeah. The doctor thanked me after with a surprised but happy tone that I cared about the welfare of Koreans . . . and while I appreciate the response I really wish a nurse or doctor had been the one to notice this kind of thing–and not me.

After the doctor spoke to the two guards, one of them complied, the other did not.  I really hope that some kind of inspection takes place at the hospital where that guard is read the riot act by his superior for not using his mask.

In spite of the very critical comments I make here I should temper them by saying that the doctors and nurses are friendly and do a great job.  I should point out that my expectations are incredibly high because I love Julianne and when a loved one is sick I think most people become very concerned with the quality of care–which was very good overall.  While I may not be happy with some hygiene practices at the hospital the doctors have never made any mistakes, and each time we’ve had to visit the outcome of their prescribed treatment is excellent.

I will say, however, just one more time . . .

Do NOT pick your nose and then hand out sterile masks!

Whew! I’m glad I got that out of my system.

J

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