feature 317 

Drunks, thieves, animals and other medical emergencies In the past six years Dr. Andrew Hamson has met up with a variety of injured and surly drunks, and he readily offers a few not-too-specific yarns of humility, if asked. How about the drunk who allegedly broke his hand in a bar fight and sought assistance in emerg? "He came in cursing and swearing, making a horrible racket," recalls Hamson, a Canadian with a distinctly British accent. Ignoring the good doctor's insistence that he cool it, the man continued his tirade. Before long he was led out by police in handcuffs. Among other typical timeless tales are the number of patients who come in with various objects lodged in places they were obviously not intended for. Be it coke bottles, glass tumblers, and even small rodents, Whistler's medical professionals have encountered an assortment of sexually bizarre cases. And there are others incidents that are just plain scary. "One day last summer, just around 9 p.m., we had someone come in who had fallen over their handlebars," says RN Anne Fenwick. "He walked in, had a bit of neck pain, was X-rayed and ended up with a fracture in the neck. "Those always get your heart going a little bit." Those kind of tales don't stop there. During a visit to the ward on Easter Sunday a young man wearing a green T-shirt asked for a couple of band-aids from a nurse and, when she wasn't looking, walked away with her and a co-worker's wallets. The youth hasn’t been seen since. Dr. Paul Walden recalls the night he caught a youth stealing medical supplies from the ward. By the time police were called in to detain the youth a significant stash of rubber gloves, thermometers, and other instruments had been removed. "It's like he was about to open up his own clinic," he laughs. And if people aren't randomly stealing from the emerg, they're stealing from the system. For example: Snowboarder comes in with broken wrist. Nurse/doctor tends to wrist. Snowboarder's wrist X-rayed. Wrist put in cast. Snowboarder asked to fill out some forms regarding payment. Nurse/doctor tends to other patients. Snowboarder last seen sitting in hallway. No more snowboarder. Although staff take great precautions to ensure that out-of-town patients pay for their medical treatment, including keeping their ski pass as collateral in some cases or asking for a credit card, roughly 6.5 per cent of all hospital revenues are currently outstanding (about $15,000). While many patients are responsible and do pay, there are others who feel that they don't have to, says Judi Clark, head of admitting. "And if they can, they will walk out the back door."


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