Isn't There Enough Stress at a Hospital?


In our last article, the co-owner of Support For Home let off some steam about healthcare costs.  Turns out she is not through with observations driven by her son’s need for medical treatment and tests.  Here she goes again!  Bert

Nobody goes to a hospital to relax.  It is already a place where tension exists, just because it’s a hospital.  So, shouldn’t hospital staff understand that and take some care not to add unnecessary tension?

I was sitting in the waiting “hall” for my son to get a stress test today, after his MRI yesterday — the results are not back yet, so another 5 points of tension.  The fire alarm along the hallway went off — beep … beep … beep … — and lights started flashing.  It did not really sound like a fire alarm that I am used to, but it clearly was coming from that system.  Hospital staff did not appear to care about the possibility that there could be a fire in the hospital.  Nor did they take the time to tell us, in the waiting room, that everything was OK — or not.

I told my son that it was probably someone in medical distress and the hospital used the fire alarm system to request for medical assistance.  My son asked what if it is indeed a fire? To be honest, I was a little anxious myself but did not want to worry my son.  After waiting for about three minutes — beep … beep … beep — flash … flash … flash, I was about to get up and head over to where we registered, to get clarification on what the alarm was about.  Two personnel in scrubs came up the stairs and headed into one of the rooms.  One of them waved to a registration clerk behind the counter down the hallway and the alarm stopped immediately.

A few minutes later, my son was taken into the room for his stress test, and I headed to the bathroom on the other side of the building.  When I came out of the bathroom, the same fire alarm had gone off again.  I was worried and immediately headed back to the side of the building where my son was, afraid that he had collapsed.  The alarm was not on over there.  Good.

So why this story?  It appears that the hospital is using the fire alarm as a signal for their internal staff.  Patients have no idea what it means other than there must be a fire, but if you have been a patient who has been visiting there for a while, you have come to realize that it’s not a fire and it’s just something that the hospital is using internally — until there actually is a fire!  There are two problems here.  For new patients, it causes anxiety. For patients who have been through it a while, they will not evacuate in the event of a real fire.

Time to call the marshal on the hospital to review their procedure and a little sensitivity and customer service training for the hospital workers.

Best wishes, Siew Pheng Tung

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