"Despair and horror"

About: Queen Elizabeth Hospital (Birmingham)

(as the patient),

Having only today discovered this page I want to write about my experience of last year.

When I entered hospital for my operation I was terrified, as I was lead to believe it might be cancerous. I tend to loathe people who want to talk about their operations and who proudly go into the most gory details. I was therefore pleased when I was allocated a bed in a side ward sharing it with a lady who had recently had a tracheotomy. It was the only ward with its own bathroom. Great I thought. My pleasure was very short lived when a lady appeared and introduced herself as the patient's mother and expressed her dismay that I had appeared because she had been using the bed that had been allocated to me and sleeping on it overnight. The bed I might add had been made up with fresh sheets for the arrival of myself so you can imagine I was somewhat appalled as in my view they were then deemed to be 'soiled'. The lady then proceeded to tell me that her daughter had had 16 operations and was waiting for a kidney removal. Just the things I wanted to hear when I was waiting terrifed at the end of the bed waiting for the nurse to call me as I was first on the surgeon's operating list. It is again the rules to sit on the bed and unfortunately the chair which should have been my patient's bed she had been using as a 'foot rest'.

I was in hospital for a total of 3 days and quite frankly I had had more than enough. I rang my husband and asked him to collect me. The patient only had to stir in the night and the mother pulled the emergency cord to call a Nurse. I then had to listen to the mother go into detail of how many times her daughter had turned in her sleep, coughed spluttered and been to the toilet. The worst was when the patient had started her menstrual cycle and again called the nurse. The conversation that ensued went on for 20 minutes and I was surprised that the Nurse spent so much time listening to trivia when other buzzers were going. Even thought they knew that they had woken me up still the conversation went on and on and mother fussed all night. Following my operation a Nurse attended upon me and pointed out that my gown was bloodstained and suggested that I shower. When I entered the bathroom I could not use the shower because the patient and her mother had filled the area with, a case of clothes, a zimmer frame, a holdall and various other items of toiletries and clothing. The window cill was also covered with other toiletry items. On the back of the bathroom door there was an array of dresses and cardigans, all soiled and covered in dandruff. I established that these belonged to the patient's mother. They had totally taken over this bathroom and the ward without any regard for me whatsoever. The mother was totally obsessed with her daughter's welfare to the exclusion of all others. She constantly moaned if meals were delivered late, when they had an emergency late one night she felt that they should have at least delivered the late night drinks on time and she certainly was not going to pay for the use of a TV so a staff TV was brought in specially for her. Staff constantly fussed around her. Each evening her meal was brought in and mine usually followed about 10 minutes later. I could only assume they brought hers in to 'shut her up'.

There was a sign on the wall stating 'no mobile phones' and only the patients to use the toilet. Mobile phones were used constantly. At visiting time 3 family members arrived so together with the mother it made 4 sitting quite clearly under a Notice saying 'No More than 2 visitors'. When my husband arrived he could not get in and there was no chair available. They constantly tripped in and out of the toilet, the father I noted wore the same clothes each time he visited and at no time had he shaved. There was so much clutter around her bed that it was only when I left that I realised that there was a sink which they could have used. I did complain to one of the Nurses and her comment was 'I wondered why all that stuff was in the bathroom' and merely pointed out to the mother that only 2 visitors were allowed but alas no-one took any notice.

During my stay I overheard a conversation which took place between the mother and hospital staff. It was quite clear that the hospital administrators wanted the patient to leave and had wanted her to vacate the bed for several days. The patient was due to have another operation but they required her to leave and return in one month's time. The mother refused and the hospital relented and allowed her to stay. I was dismayed that the hospital allowed a bed to be occupied for a total of more than 4 weeks just to satisfy the whim of an overprotective mother when people are waiting months for a hospital bed. I spent 3 dreadful nights being kept awake by this mother and on the day that I left before I had even walked through the door they had moved all the chairs etc. and taken over the half of the ward (more precisely say one quarter) that I had been occupying. I think it was a disgrace and should not have been allowed.

I was not sure which was worse the dirty visitors or the cleaners. One cleaner came in one day and struck up a conversation and said that cleaners now have to obtain an NVQ to carry out their duties. As my bed was positioned directly opposite the bathroom door I could see her quite clearly when she was cleaning. She took a cloth, wiped the mirror, wiped the sink and then wiped over the toilet seat. That was the sum total of her cleaning in that area and then she used the same cloth to clean up in the ward.

If anyone ever wonders why there is infection in hospitals, just spend a couple of days in the QE and you will have your answer.

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