Linda Walker had no major complaints about the care she received from doctors and nurses over the course of her two-week stay at Carbonear General Hospital last month.
But the Winterton resident feels the hospital could do a much better job of enforcing the rules when it comes to how many people can visit a patient at once.
"It's unbelievable," said Walker, who was awaiting some test results while recovering from a triple bypass surgery. "I've been in Carbonear hospital before, and this has happened before, but this time was really bad."
Walker (see her letter to the editor "Hospital visitation rules need enforcement") was staying on the seventh floor of the hospital in a room with one other patient. At one point, she says, her roommate had seven visitors at once. She said they remained in the room for several hours straight.
"I suffer from anxiety, which makes it even worse, because if you get a crowd in a room, I get crazy anyway," she said. "At the same time, I looked in the rooms where four beds are, and they're crowded with people visiting. You don't see families where the brother and sister might come in at one time and then somebody else might come in at another time. They all come in at once."
Walker does not have a problem with a family coming to bring a loved one food and clothing, but she couldn't understand why such a large group of people would stick around for as long as they did.
"The young boy was playing a video game really loud, and I was over near that side. I laid there for seven hours and I thought, 'I can't handle this anymore'."
It was at this point she says she complained to a nurse, who did subsequently talk with the patient's guests.
Walker also had to ask the boy to turn down his video game.
"I mean, I can't get any rest because they're talking loud, and the poor mother falls asleep trying to get some rest," Walker said. "The woman is sick, and they're still staying and talking and eating and having a great old gab."
She appreciated the nurse's effort going to bat for her, but understands too they are far too busy already to deal with such issues.
Walker knows there's security staff at the hospital and believes they should be tasked with keeping an eye on how many people are in the rooms.
"Can a guard go around and say, 'Look, there's too many people in this room.' Or at night say that visiting hours are over. I've seen people stay until 10:30 p.m."
Upon leaving the hospital, Walker contacted Eastern Health's client relations office to file a complaint.
"I used to have to get out of bed to find a lounge to hide in to get some peace," she said.
In a statement released to The Compass, Eastern Health confirmed visiting hours at its facilities are from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.
The regional health authority said "two visitors are recommended per patient at a time," adding that visitors should leave if asked to do so by a health professional. Patients are permitted to have one support person stay with them outside of regular visiting hours and overnight if necessary. Patients who do not want visitors must notify unit staff.
"These are general guidelines," Eastern Health said, noting too it views visits with family and friends as an important part of the care and treatment patients receive. "Specialized areas may have specific timeframes governing visiting hours that are more appropriate for their operations."
While it may be rare for the health authority to restrict visiting access, it does happen in situations where people continuously behave inappropriately.
"Inappropriate behaviour can be described as exhibiting extreme examples of aggression, unreasonable demands, harassment of staff, using loud and abusive language, interference with nursing and medical care, interferences with the care of other patients, and generally lack of consideration or appreciation of the role of nursing staff, medical staff, and other health care professionals providing care," Eastern Health said.
If staff or a manager cannot get a person behaving inappropriately to leave, security will be called in.
"Such action is taken in the interest of providing appropriate care to the patient and other patients and to provide staff at Eastern Health with a safe and healthy environment in which they could provide health care appropriately."