Saturday, January 1, 2011


Yes. That is the way the administration of the Jewish General Hospital deals with complaints from the few patients who dare to report abuses. Blame the victim, the patient. If you are abused - made to suffer due to a staff member's carelessness or incompetence or negligence, or even arrogance, management will say you are overly sensitive. In fact, I have that in writing from Dr. Joseph Portnoy, chief of staff, after I reported the agony of a botched colonoscopy. It was not the only time he blamed me for being too sensitive when I have reported abuse.

Once you are in the emergency department of the JGH your life is no longer in your hands. Abuse by some nurses - and even some doctors - is ignored and patients, visitors and staff who witness abuse will not interfere to help you. Patients are treated like dummies, guinea pigs, insensitive mannequins.

Of course, most nurses are not to blame. I am writing about those who should be blamed, but who are protected by what is - in police forces - called the Blue Line. The union. Once I waylaid a doctor coming off an elevator in a hospital to summon him urgently to save the life of a newborn baby who was turning blue from lack of oxygen. He came running with me but told me he was doing it at the risk of his career - because the baby was not his patient and the nurses might go out on strike and he would be blamed.

That doctor saved my niece's life and Dawn McSweeney grew up to be the thief who destroyed my family. But that is another story about abuse and injustice - in this case by the Montreal Police who helped the thief. You can read all the details at  No good deed goes unpunished.

December 28, 29, 2010
I spent two days and one night in emergency department at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. This has been my hospital all my life. On these two days, it was in a state of chaos, a nightmare, bursting at the seams. For the sake of accuracy I must note that patients waiting so long to see a doctor appeared weary, anxious and disgruntled, but they were not disorderly.
Having experienced pressure on my chest two nights in a row, I arrived at the triage office at 10:30 AM, December 28. The triage nurse saw me at noon. An EKG was taken immediately. I was brought into a booth a few hours later.

On the second day, two young nurses tried to install an intra venous line to prepare me for a CT scan. I had asked for Nurse Susan Tremblay to do the procedure because at a previous time, she had done so successfully. But these young nurses said, Tremblay was at lunch and I was late for my appointment for the CT scan, so I had to let them try to find a vein or forget about the test after all the preparation.

I asked if we could wait until Tremblay returned from lunch. Then they said that I had refused to have the intra venous installed the previous day and Susan Tremblay was so offended that I refused to let her do it when she wanted to do it, that she would not do it today - the day of the test. Why should a 74 year old cancer patient with pressure on her chest push around a IV pole for an extra twelve hours? Not for the patient's sake, but for the convenience of the nurse.

So one young nurse forced a needle into my arm while the other egged her on - in spite of my screams. And the two young nurses scolded me for making a fuss - while all the people around us pretended not to see or hear my pain. As is usual at the JGH, not one staff member or patient or visitor said a word to protect me. So with all those witnesses, I was tortured by two young nurses and my cries for them to "Stop !" were completely ignored.

And, as usual when nurses fail to install an IV they blame the patient - "It was a good vein", she says, "but it burst". And the next try, "It was a good vein - but it burst". And so it went until I was sobbing. And no one said a word. It is never the fault of an incompetent nurse, but the fault of the patient's veins. I have learned from seventeen years of experience, that the nurses who are patient and skilful at putting in IVs do not cause burst veins. I am an eye and flesh witness.

The pain and humiliation of what those two young nurses did to me on December 29 left me sobbing in front of all the other patients. Those young nurses treated me with contempt and cruelty. And I know there will be no consequences for them. There never is. They are such sweet, caring girls. You are known for being overly sensitive.
Someone may talk to the nurses, as they did to Dr. Jerome Stasiak the day he ordered me to get dressed and get into a wheelchair and he would have someone push me out to a taxi immediately. He didn't do a thing to find out that I had bone cancer. You can read that report on my blog as well.

If you steal a loaf of bread, there is a penalty. If you steal a car. There is a penalty. But if you almost kill a patient, the hospital authorities "talk" to you.

Following the CT scan on December 29, a male nurse in emergency came and told me I have kidney problems. He told me it was my fault that the intra venous line that the young nurse had finally forced into my hand had burst and infiltrated my flesh and had to be removed before the treatment was finished because my hand blew up like a balloon.

Now kidney failure? I was so scared. A hard slap in the face by the male nurse because I had not allowed him to install the IV line. He had hurt me on a previous occasion and I do not forget. So he tells me I have kidney trouble and I am responsible for botching the treatment that would have protected my kidneys. But there will be no consequences for him either.

"Dehydrated" says my oncologist. "I am not concerned in the least about it", says the wise doctor calmly, and he asks if I am ready to go home. I had not eaten or had anything to drink and I had not slept in a couple of days. But the male nurse didn't discuss anything with me. He just blamed me and scared me for no reason except to display his power over me, over my life, because I was under his control.

Little people oppress victims who are under their control. Doctors, nurses, teachers and police officers are found in this category of little tyrants. Unfortunately they have a lot of power over their victims when they are most vulnerable and they can abuse that power with impunity because no one dares to complain.

Stop talking to patients as if we are idiots. I descend from my high perch on the gurney and head left to the bathroom. A nurse calls out, "Where are you going, Madam?" "I'm going to the bathroom", says the idiot patient. "The bathroom is this way, Madam. This way!" replies the authority on bathrooms.

I keep walking. The bathroom that way is down the long hall and a woman with shingles on her private parts has just been in there. The bathroom I was heading for is around the corner and twelve steps away. I kept walking half expecting the nurse to call security on the escapee.

In the CT scan waiting room, the tech calls me into the lab. I turn left to go and pick up my bag. One of the techs calls out, "No ! No, Madam! The lab is this way." I know. It has always been there through the years. It hasn't moved. I take another step toward my bag. "No, Madam, this way!", she orders.
I lost it. "I am going to pick up my bag. Stop talking to the patients as if we are idiots !" The techs apologized.

Stop talking to patients as if we are idiots!

Coming to the emergency department, patients are sick, in pain, worried, fearful, exhausted. How should they "look"? Dr. Bernard Unger told me one day in 2009, when I was deathly ill, that the first time he ever saw me in the emergency department of the JGH, he looked at my face and decided that I "looked hostile".

This conversation took place after I had lodged a complaint about the events of April 1, 2009 when his colleague, Dr. Jerome Stasiak, almost killed me.

But Dr. Unger told me that he had judged me to be "hostile" years earlier merely by looking at my face, the first time he ever saw me. For what reason? He just saw me and had never even spoken to me. Where did that hostility really come from? One might wonder.

Strangely enough, this little comment by Dr. Unger really hurt me because I had always liked him. In fact, when I went home and remembered it, I had a hard time trying not to cry. He hated me for no reason at all. And I am sensitive. I am human.

If you prick us, do we not bleed ?
In the third week of April, 2009, emergency room Dr. Stern forced me to leave the emergency department to return the next morning for more tests. I was so sick and it cost so much in energy and taxi fare to travel an extra day when I could have spent the night in the waiting room if necessary.
But Dr. Stern threatened to call security and have me "thrown out" if I did not leave the building. Why? Would I have taken up so much place using one seat somewhere else in that huge hospital that is so empty late at night ?

There are waiting rooms throughout the hospital where I might have stayed. But he threatened to have security remove me. I am not noisy, I am not rude or irrational. Why did I have to be removed? Only because Dr. Stern had to prove that he was in charge and that I was helpless.

When Dr. Stern said I had to leave or he would call security against me, I told him I would leave the hospital and sit on the sidewalk outside and tell everyone passing by what he had done. I told him that he would be responsible if something happened to me. He answered that he was not responsible for his patients' lives. He said I was responsible if anything happened to me.

He would not relent. I had to go home and come back the next day, at the cost of so much energy and pain and anxiety and $40.00 more in taxis, paid from my government social security income. I was so sick, I could not go back for the tests the next day, so the tests were delayed.

Below are listed some other reports I have published about my experiences at the Jewish General Hospital. If these things happen to me, I have no doubt they happen to many other patients and at other hospitals everywhere. I have witnessed and reported patient abuses to Rosemary Steinberg, the Patients' Ombudsperson at the JGH. But people are afraid to complain about doctors, nurses, police and other authorities - but especially about hospital staff because they feel so indebted and obligated and dependent on them. Some fear the "mystery" the "magic" that they attribute to the power of doctors. So this is a lonely occupation - reporting truth to those who do not want to hear it - and rarely with anyone to support me in my quest for justice.

"Expose the deeds of darkness" the bible tells us, (Ephesians 5:11) and "Justice, only justice" shalt thou pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20.)

You may want to read about my friend Alma Mia Petridas Dallaire Kotsos at Phyllis Carters Journal. She was so afraid to ask her doctor to speed up her cancer treatment that she died, waiting politely for the doctor to get started.
I say once again, there are excellent doctors and nurses at the Jewish General Hospital - care givers who are expert and caring and devoted, even self-sacrificing but, as in the case of police forces, the bad ones are protected by the system. That casts a dark shadow over all the goodness of those who deserve our respect and trust and gratitude and, yes, even our love.

Only when people take responsibility to stand up for justice and for the innocent will we have any hope of turning our society away from its ugly state. It takes energy and it takes courage to fight the great systems of power that rule our lives. Young doctors and nurses who witness abuses are themselves afraid to speak out. They want to succeed and they dare not step out of line.
I keep looking for heroes and have found just a few - members of organizations that are crying out against injustice for survivors of crime and abuse. There is hope.

I note that members of the Paperman Funeral Home family serve as trustees at the JGH - a respected and worthy family - just waiting to "serve" the patients.
We must fight to live.

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