A Hospital Visit During A “Pandemic”

My youngest son recently split his head open. He’s not shy about telling you, or showing you the scar he now wears like a badge of honour. It’s a symbol of his bravery and toughness in the face of metal benches everywhere, for that is how he split his head open – he lost a fight with a metal bench.

It was a pleasant enough Friday as they go, and we were just finishing up our weekly grocery shop. I had my back to my family who were hanging out by the benches, bulk items and miscellaneous boxes that line that area. My eldest was sitting on one of the benches and my youngest was running around. He ran over to the bench and unbeknownst to me, tripped and fell headfirst into it. 

A raucous cry immediately filled the store and my wife bundled him up into her arms. And then I heard the panic in her voice, “Oh god, he’s really bleeding!”

I ran over to them both and saw for myself the blood spilling from his tiny head, and mixing with the tears on his face. I ran to get help from the customer service desk where a woman quickly grabbed the first aid kit and assisted with wrapping his head and taking our information (just in case we decided to sue the store, I imagine). Quickly paying for the groceries, we raced home, gathered what we needed, and headed straight to Dartmouth General.

Thankfully he stopped crying on the way over and perked up enough to ask for MacDonald’s for dinner. It was a late Friday afternoon, and we had a four year old with an obvious head injury, so we thought that our hospital visit would be quick. He’d get in, be looked at, cleaned up, and stitched up. Easy. Instead what happened was an insight into the workings of a hospital emergency department in Nova Scotia during a “pandemic”.

Now I’ll admit that as his parents my wife and I were probably over estimating the seriousness of the situation, as I’m sure most parents do when their child is injured. But what I was not expecting was the rush and fervour we had experienced in the half hour race to the hospital to come to an immediate and complete halt once we entered its doors.

While we waited to be triaged and there were only two other gentlemen before us, who were clearly together. There were three little chairs separated by perspex screens and then one little chair right by the entrance door, by which we were standing so as to give the other gentlemen their space from our excited-to-be-somewhere-new children. My wife and I were wearing masks but our kids weren’t and, nobody once addressed the matter with us, which is curious considering what I’m about to tell you.

It was at this point that we were asked by the lady at the desk to please move away from that singular chair by the door because that was the “COVID waiting area”. I was stumped. That one little chair, right next to the door (perhaps for better ventilation?) was the COVID waiting area. I began to see just how seriously the healthcare system in Nova Scotia actually took this virus – counter to the constant fear mongering, they didn’t actually take it very seriously at all. There was not 5ft between the COVID waiting area and the rest of the triage area. There also weren’t any perspex screens enclosing that chair, like with the others, and we all know how useful they are in preventing the spread of airborne viruses

Nonetheless, we moved away from the COVID waiting area as asked. And just at that moment an elderly woman was rushed into the hospital in a wheelchair, clearly short of breath behind her mask, and panicking to the point that the lady at the desk need not have asked her the COVID screening questions. This lady was then wheeled over to the COVID waiting area. 

During the triage process the doctor asked the broad question of my four year old son, “has he been vaccinated”, to which we appropriately replied, “yes, to lots of things”. He then specified his question to mean the COVID vaccine, to which we responded quite obviously, “no”. I thought that a doctor would know that those under 5 years old aren’t even eligible for the jab, but apparently not.

Being triaged was the easy bit though, and the slow trudge that is hospital intake in an “emergency” department soon became apparent. Hours ticked by while we tried to entertain our sons. I’m grateful that an elderly man took a shine to them, and kept up a conversation with them for quite some time. He also wasn’t wearing a mask by the way, and was only spoken to about it by hospital staff once, and only half heartedly. Three hours into the wait my wife went to ask why it was taking so long to see a four year old with a head injury, and was told that they don’t prioritise people ahead of others.

They don’t prioritise emergencies? Good job no one was at the hospital for, say, an emergency, then eh? Well, what about the lady that came in with clear symptoms of COVID? Surely she’d be seen before everyone else so she wasn’t increasing the exposure risk of the other people in the waiting room? Nope. She sat next to the rest of us, her wheelchair parked at the end of a row of seats. There was no hermetically sealed area, no quarantine room separated from the rest of those waiting to be seen; just a little space and a mask over her face. 

At this point I had to grab something to eat, so my eldest and I left to find and bring back food. On our way back into the hospital, with my arms full and in the middle of a conversation with my son, a man at the door yelled at me, “HAVE YOU BEEN VACCINATED?”. Putting aside the fact that interrupting a conversation by yelling at someone is obviously rude, and something that even my 6 year old knows, what is with that question? It’s as if the COVID vaccine is the only vaccine that has ever existed. Not to mention the fact that my medical history is none of that stranger’s business. I ignored the nice man, and continued to enter the hospital with my son, at which the man said, “Oh you’ve been through this before.” I answered in the affirmative and we carried on our way.

Finally, after five and a half long hours, my son was admitted. He got four stitches. My wife went with him and she later relayed to me her experience. They weren’t taken into a small doctors room, separated from everyone else, but an open air room with white plastic sheets used as separators. This meant she could hear the conversations of the people around her (so much for medical privacy). One such conversation involved a person who had been admitted for stomach pains and had self diagnosed with some abdominal anomaly. But they were told that the symptoms they had were not consistent with that original diagnosis, and so they would need to take a COVID test. 

There are three issues highlighted by this conversation – the first is the serious lack of medical privacy with a setup in a hospital like this. I mean, come on, is this the best we can do? The second issue is the inflation of COVID numbers in Nova Scotia (and globally) which has occurred due to little events like this that turn into mass, asymptomatic testing using the inappropriate PCR test. It can’t distinguish between whole virus or viral fragments, and when run at more than 35 cycles of amplification, the false-positive rate soars to about 97%. Most, if not all of the ‘asymptomatic’ COVID case numbers, were the progeny of this test, which this person was steered into having. And this brings me to the third issue: this person probably didn’t realize they didn’t have to be tested for COVID. In Canada it is your right to refuse any medical treatment you wish, even if doing so would hasten your death. And the right to refuse is specific to each treatment, so this person could have refused the test, without refusing medical care for her symptoms. Anecdotal though it may be, this little example shows how COVID is still really a numbers game, and it’s one we don’t have to keep playing.

We left the hospital around 11:30pm that night, and needless to say we were all pretty beat. My kids dropped off to sleep almost as soon as their heads hit their pillows, while thoughts of our hospital visit during a pandemic swirled through my head. For all the press briefings and endless reminders to mask up, stay the blazes home, sanitise and stay “COVID safe”, it felt clear to me that the hospital environment didn’t think this virus was all that deadly, because the lady with COVID symptoms was still sitting in the waiting area after we left.

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  1. Though your experience is more complex than mine, I can relate to your story. On a Saturday night, I had found a tic latched onto a leg. I managed to remove it with a nail clipper. It looked like a dog or brown tic, so did not fear Lyme disease which is spread by dear tics. By Monday evening I had swelling and redness, so decided I must have it attended to. At about 9 PM, phoned Cobequid Community Health Centre, and found out that they were open til midnight. So off I drive to the place. I donned a face shield while entering, and this was not challenged, though I was asked if I was not able to wear a mask. At least a face shield is quite well ventilated and does not shed harmful synthetic fibres to get lodged in my lungs.

    The Receptionist rattled off the usual COVID questions. After a few minutes wait, I was told by the triage nurse that they were at capacity, and would only accept life threatening cases. I asked about info that I’d heard that pharmacists were able to prescribe the antibiotic that is used as a counter to Lyme. She was kind enough to confirm this, and told me of a pharmacy that was open to midnight. So off I drive to the Sackville Shoppers Drug Mart. The Pharmacist was helpful with advice. Can’t praise her enough. She had a look at the wound and at the tic that I’d save in a bottle. She said that it was a dog tic and not a deer tic, so what I was suffering was not Lyme, but an infection called cellulitus due to the bite. She said that she could not give an antibiotic prescription for this, and that the antibiotic for Lyme would not be needed. Also advised that I should see a Doctor about the cellulitis. Cellulitis left untreated can become very serious.
    So off I go to Dartmouth General. The security guard asked to see proof of vaccination, which I refused. But he allowed me to go inside. The receptionist asked the usual battery of COVID questions. When asked if I had been vaccinated, I said yes. Then she got more specific, was I vaccinated for COVID? When asked if I’d had COVID, I had to reply, “Unconfirmed”. Having had a cold and flu like ailment months before, I did not know if it was COVID, flu, or a cold. She immediately said that I refused to answer, quite a presumptive statement. I had to correct her that I had been ill, but was unsure if it was COVID.
    I waited and waited. There were about 8 others around me in chairs in the Plexiglas cells which were open on their fronts. I could not help but wonder for what purpose they had been constructed. I had walked into the building through open rooms possibly exhaling COVID virus as I strode. But how were these open Plexiglas cells going to keep exhaled respiratory viruses form circulating throughout the room? I wondered similarly about the Plexiglas screen in front of the reception desk. Curiously, the security guard stations lacked plexiglas screens. I too noticed the “COVID chair” set aside near the entry door for COVID patients. It remained empty during my entire wait. Guess that there is not a clamour of new COVID patients overwhelming the hospital.
    So I waited and waited as other around me gradually trickled in through the next door to see a Doctor in the inner sanctum. I grew more and more tired in the hard plastic ill designed chair. It was very sore on the body. I had to walk about many times to relieve the chair induced pain. You would have to try very hard to design a chair that would be more uncomfortable. They would be quite distracting to diagnosis of a musculoskeletal disorder, as it would be impossible to distinguish from chair induced pain and pain from an actual ailment. Persons already suffering pain would likely have it worsened.

    A security guard dutifully kept a watch from his desk by the inner sanctum door. But then he disappeared for quite a long time, well over an hour. I was quite concerned that the abode of the physicians and nurses would be invaded by impatient patients. Perhaps I would be witness to another January 6 like event right here at Dartmouth General. Thankfully, marauding armed right wing extremists never appeared. Everyone who had been waiting patiently continued to wait. After all this is Canada. The worst thing that Canadians have ever done en mass was to park some trucks in front of parliament, play street hockey, and let the kids bounce on air castles. Can’t get more violent than that.
    Eventually, I was called in by a nurse who showed me to a room equipped with a gurney type hospital bed. Great, I was able to lie down after having suffered the excruciating chair for hours. I awoke perhaps a half hour later to the Doctor. I showed her the tic wound and explained the time I’d found the tic, and how I had removed the it. She seemed only mildly interested. Suppose this was only the latest of hundreds of these that she had dealt with, and I presume that she was quite rushed to get to the other people behind me. She refused to look at the tic specimen that I had dutifully brought in a pill bottle. Said that they do not send them to a lab any more. So she left the room. Moments later, a nurse appeared with two antibiotic tablets instructing me to take one and take the other in 12 hours. She left, and moments later returned with a prescription note, telling me that I was free to leave. On the way out I thanked the staff at the station desk. I had entered the hospital about 11 PM, and got out at about 6 AM. I’d had to wait over 6 hours to see a Doctor who spent about 10 minutes.
    I’m satisfied that the staff did a great job under the conditions. But I see that the system is woefully inadequate. I had no choice but to use the hospital emergency. Getting an appointment with my GP would have taken weeks, by which time I might have gone past the point of simple treatment for disabling Lyme disease and become a very huge burden on the health care system. Getting immediate treatment with the antibiotic used against Lyme is important. So I dared not wait even another day to get to a walk in clinic.
    Should not hospital emergency departments be reserved for ailments and injuries of more urgently threatening and more complex nature? And should there not be clinics open 24 hours every day for urgent, but not immediately life threatening cases? The walk in clinics scattered about are only open days. Keeping a few open for 24 hours or even for 16 hours would certainly help free up hospital emergency departments, and at lower cost. The overhead cost of a hospital emergency department must be many times higher than for a small clinic that has a smaller staff and offers basic services for simpler cases. It seems that much of the wait time and pressure on staff could be easily resolved by simple low cost reorganization of resources.
    Why are the staff so concerned about COVID? Health Canada COVID Statistics May 8, 2022:
    “Fully vaccinated” + “Fully vaccinated with an additional dose” = 48.4% of reported cases.
    “Unvaccinated” = 44.8% of reported cases.
    Statistically, jabbed people have greater odds of contracting COVID than nonjabbed.
    Clearly, the best way to avoid becoming infected with COVID is to not get the jab.
    This data disproves any need of the entire vax scheme.

    If a patient walks in with no symptoms, why is the vax pass asked for? Patients are processed and treated the same regardless of vax status and COVID history. Why was money spent to outfit the hospital with Plexiglas dividers and screens which really offer no protection from airborne germs? Do we really need to pay a security guard to keep watch on the doorway? What is the cause of such outrageous delay time? Why are we short staffed with huge numbers of health care workers fired or suspended for refusing a needless and unproven injection? Why did the Cobequid Community Health Centre not advise during my phone call that they were at capacity?