Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the open house of the new tower of Vernon Jubilee Hospital. Clean, bright, ultra modern are words that come to mind.
It didn't yet have the smell of the sick, of disinfectant, of life at it's most urgent moments of pain and despair. The waiting rooms sat empty, expectantly, with rows of clean new chairs waiting for a host of people to come, each with their own stories, their own fears and hopes, their own pain.
It was almost too close to home; I had to breathe deeply a couple of times, as I walked through the new ER (making me think of the present ER where I have made a number of visits in the past months, where my mother spent six whole days in early spring, where we took dad when he was so sick). And again the memories came as I viewed the new ICU, the Coronary Care Unit, and even though it was all new, the memories of my stay in such a unit are all too fresh.
It was much more fun to view the new Labour Rooms, and think of my own Leanne... who just had a baby in May, and stayed in a rather crowded room in the present hospital. The new rooms are private and spacious, and if you happen to be having a baby, you stay there right through labour and delivery and your hospital stay... complete with a fold out bed for dad or a support person.
Of course there has been lots of controversy over the new tower and the lack of new acute care beds, and we our family, have been asked by health care providers to speak out. Some thought that if there hadn't been such overcrowding, dad would have never had C difficile, and nearly died. Certainly mom wouldn't have had to stay in ER for 6 days, while she battled her infection in a tiny dark corner of the hospital.
I tend to be conflicted over some of these protests. I see how hard the nurses worked, and we definitely saw overcrowding. It seemed that if there were more beds in the community for long-term care patients, there would be more room in the hospital for acute care. It is complicated, as most big decisions are, involving money and policies, and people's lives.
Instead, what I am intensely grateful for is the fact we have health care at all, that I can go to the emergency room and receive reassurance when I have chest pain. My doctors visits are not limited by the size of my pocketbook. That we as a family are not struggling with massive health care bills after stays at the intensive care, and all of mom's cancer treatment, is an amazing gift, and makes me thankful for Canada's health care, imperfect though it may be.
And I am excited to start participating in hospital visits of another sort - on Tuesdays I will begin a ten week program, once a week, to be a student-chaplain. It is a privilege which thrills me, and yes terrifies me as well. I certainly don't have any wise answers, but if I can sit with someone and listen, as others have listened to me, it will be time well spent.