Hi there and welcome to A Bit Of A Rant with your host, me.
Today I’m going to be talking about the Surgical High Care Unit, also known as ward E4, a ward in the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Portsmouth. And I’m going to be ranting. Maybe even raving. I’m always a little bit raving. But it’s mostly ranting today.
Now, you see, I’ve visited the Queen Alexandra Hospital (QA to its friends which is why I’ll be referring to it in full) quite a bit over the past few weeks. Don’t panic! It’s not me! My mum, however, has cancer and – to be brutally honest – the chemotherapy route has been tried and has failed and it is simply going to cut short her life sooner rather than later. We don’t like to think about such things but it’s true.
Recently, my mum needed an emergency operation; as a result of the cancer she developed an obstruction that gave her two options: ileostomy or ten days of agony followed by death. She took the former option and we were all glad of it. The operation went well and she recovered in wards E1 and then E2 at Queen Alexandra. We visited. It was nice. Lovely view, pleasant wards, helpful nurses and doctors; you couldn’t fault a thing. This was a good hopsital experience.
However, after getting discharged my mum developed a very painful pain (those painful pains are the worst pains) which we (her family and friends) diagnosed (because we’d been in a hospital recently and felt some of the nursey-doctory knowledge had oozed into our brain holes (I know all the medical terms)) as being probably sciataca. When her toes went black we figured that maybe a doctor might have another idea; he did.
Deep vein thrombosis was the culprit this time and a blood clot had formed in the back of my mum’s knee. She was in agony. We were concerned and a little annoyed that she hadn’t been put on blood thinners to prevent this happening after the surgery but then again we thought it had been sciataca so what would we know?
My mum was transferred to ward E4, the Surgical High Care Unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.
It’s a high care unit so – and tell me if you think otherwise – I was expecting care of the high variety. Care of the high variety was not forthcoming. The care was negligible, bordering on the coincidental to there being a member of the nursing profession present. The ward had an unpleasant feel to it; ten patients and five nurses and the distinct impression that the nurses would rather there were no patients at all to interrupt whatever pissy little thing they were far more busy with.
My mum spent the majority of one day crying and occasionally screaming in pain. The high care offered included a "stop crying or you’ll give yourself a headache" but did not include a check to see whether the morphine drip – that thing that’s supposed to ease that which my mum was in agony from – was working; it wasn’t. It took one of her friends to identify the dried-up drip. That’s not high care; that’s negligence. The blood oxygen monitor was not working either; apparently that wasn’t high on the check list. Functioning equipment in the high care unit? I don’t think they need that at Queen Alexandra Hospital!
When my dad was allowed in to visit my mum on the first day he discovered she was – in addition to crying in pain – lying in a very wet bed. It wasn’t her, in case you’re wondering. During one of the high care moments when some drip or another was being changed over (not the morphine of course) the tube, still attached to a fluid bag, was left open and in my mum’s bed. In her pain she didn’t notice that she was effectively lying in a pool. She has the excuse of the pain. The nurses providing the high care had no such excuse.
My mum has – I’ve mentioned – an ileostomy. This means she wears a bag now. Further, this means it fills up with waste. Further further, this means it needs changing when it fills. My mum was in pain – did I mention the pain my mum was in? – but aware enough to tell the nurses plenty of times when her bag was filling up. My mum was also in bed, on her side, in agony, barely able to move because of the numerous tubes going in and out of her. With one nurse for every two patients and this being a ward where the care was high or your money back you might imagine that there would be plenty of time for a nurse to change that bag. You might imagine that but you would be wrong to imagine that. So the bag filled and split.
And the nurse told my mum off.
And she did the same when it happened three more times. This is disgusting treatment. If Queen Alexandra’s E4 ward was also named The Shit Care Unit I could just about accept the quality of nursing received by my mum. But it isn’t and I can’t.
There were other little things and you really had to be on the ward to experience the whole horrible atmosphere there but I wouldn’t wish that particular experience on anyone. Queen Alexandra Hospital is a nice hospital and there are many good doctors and nurses there – I know quite a few personally – but the High Care Unit and its staff is a fucking disgrace and I’d be happy for everyone involved there to get the sack.
My mum is home right now, awaiting hordes of visitors – relatives from Ireland and America among them – and about to start some hormone treatment that we all hope will keep her with us for as long as possible; my brother’s wedding in August is the first milestone.