My mother was staying at Etobicoke General Hospital (William Osler Health system) for two weeks, admitted in early February and staying under the care of the hospital’s staff until she passed away. During this time, she was in the emergency, ICU, and palliative care (on the seventh floor) sections of the hospital.
When initially brought to Etobicoke General, she was in good spirits and able to communicate well with family and the healthcare team, while under doctors’ watch for the first few days. Within hours one evening, she became extremely ill and unresponsive due to a sudden attack of colitis. Because of this, she was moved to ICU. My family and I noticed that the washrooms available for the patients where my mother was first staying (and became infected) were very dirty; housekeeping in this section of the hospital was tremendously unhygienic. When someone is admitted in the hospital, they have obviously done so because they are ill and have a low/impaired immune system. Thus, it would make sense that the facility to be kept in optimal cleanliness so that the individuals who are in the hospital do not spread and/or contract illnesses from one another. When a commonly used area (i.e., the bathroom we found to be dirty) is kept in unreasonably soiled conditions, such infections can easily spread between patients.
Not to mention the nurses’ scrubs, which are worn from home and can carry bacteria between their houses and the workplace, especially if they utilize public transit to arrive to and from the hospital.
Unfortunately, the unclean bathrooms were not the only areas of the hospital that we found to be unhygienic. In both the aforementioned ICU and palliative care rooms she was kept in, nurses failed to sanitize the machines used to test various vitals when utilizing them from patient to patient. My sister and I both watched the nurses handling the machines and noticed that they were not cleaned prior to being used on my mother, nor cleaned after they were used on her. Failure to this this can spread infections from patient to patient, especially when the machines are physically touching each individual – not just to my mother, but perhaps even from her to the other patients using the machines afterward. When I brought this up to one nurse (in fact, the first nurse who I saw sanitize the machines in the week and a half I spent by my mother’s bedside in the hospital) responded that all nurses were supposed to clean the machines between uses. Clearly, this important process is not something that all of your nurses find necessary to abide by.
The nurses’ failure to clean the machines should not be much of a surprise, and many of them did not seem adept in keeping the patients clean. I say this because on multiple occasions, I had brought to the nurses’ attentions that my mother had soiled her diaper and required changing. This is obviously something I could not do myself, as she was hooked up to various machines. On one particular incident, I spoke to three different nurses over the course of 45 minutes, informing them that my mother had defecated and needed to be changed. Each nurse said that they would get another nurse to change her; it wasn’t until a fourth nurse came in and smelled the excrement that she asked us to exit the room while she and another nurse (whom it took an additional five minutes to come over) changed my mother’s diaper. When I checked the fresh diaper afterwards, I noticed remaining fecal matter on her vaginal and anal areas. Leaving this on her body can cause further infections or worsen the colitis that she already had contracted.
Perhaps the worst thing to hear after experiencing all of this occurred in the palliative care unit, when a nurse told me “when you’re this age, you can’t really fight an infection” and went on to insinuate that it was her age that caused her to contract colitis and because of this, they couldn’t do much. Though it was suggested that they couldn’t do much, their actions conveyed that they wouldn’t do much – the nurses gave little more attention than was necessary to my mother in the remaining days before her death in palliative care. Even here, the machines used to test her went unsanitized between uses and her diaper was left unchanged for an extended period of time. I hate to think that my mother died in vain, because nurses did not see a point in fighting for her life due to her age, because they did not care to abide by sanitation standards set by the healthcare system we have in Canada, and because the facility she was kept in was unclean.
This letter will do nothing for my mother who has now passed away, but can perhaps open your eyes to the hospital’s failure to abide by adequate sanitation standards with future patients. I felt the need to inform the hospital of the subpar healthcare standards held by Etobicoke General, particularly after hearing from two other family friends whose loved ones died of colitis contracted during their stay at the same hospital in these early months of 2016. We would appreciate that this matter be looked into.