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Interrupted, ignored, dismissed: psychologist urges more patience with patients in N.S. ERs

Halifax -

A newly settled permanent resident in Nova Scotia says a recent experience he had in a Halifax ER is proof the overburdened healthcare system is straining its workers to the breaking point.

Originally from the United States, Doug Silverman is a registered clinical psychologist with a doctorate under his belt, granting him the privilege of using the title.

That came into play during a recent experience he had in an ER.

"I wanted to see if anyone else had a similar experience," Silverman told CTV News.

It was mid-afternoon on a Friday when Silverman went to the ER in Lower Sackville with what seemed to be classic symptoms of a bleeding ulcer.

He'd brought information: a recent history of vitals, even photographs.

"That's why I gave all this information:  I don't want to waste the ER's time," said Silverman, "They have more important things to deal with. I’m not dying right now, so please, take my information, let's do the things that I know need to be done, and I'll leave.  We'll be done.  But that's not what happened."

What did happen over the next nine hours, he says, was disappointing.

During limited interactions with staff, he claims he was interrupted, ignored or outright dismissed.

That extended even with the doctor, he says, who he finally saw just before 9:30 PM.

He was finally dispensed a drug used to treat excess stomach acid and released.

"To be summarily dismissed and then treated by taking Nexium as someone who was seeking pills?  It's laughable now; it wasn't then," said Silverman.

So much so, he documented the experience and posted on Reddit, where anonymity is part of the platform.

With 100,000 members in the HRM group, it didn't take long for others to chime in, sharing their own stories, and making the post viral, leading Silverman to one conclusion:

"That healthcare has been more of a 'good luck' (thing), instead of being provided," he said.

The plight of overburdened healthcare workers is well documented in this country and around the world.

Still, certain professional standards apply when dealing with patients.

While not commenting on the specific case, Nova Scotia Health provided an emailed statement.

"We never want patients to feel dismissed or not listened to when they access health care, as trust and rapport are key to any therapeutic relationship," said Senior Content & Media Relations Advisor Krista Keough.

If and when this is not the experience of patients and families in one of our Nova Scotia Health programs, services or facilities, we welcome that feedback through our Patient Relations service.

Any feedback we receive helps us to make improvements for system-level care.

Emergency department clinicians do try and ensure that patient complaints and symptoms are dealt with to the best of their abilities. Sometimes this can be challenging in a busy environment. The actions to improve emergency care that were recently announced are aimed at supporting patients in waiting rooms, and enhancing access to care outside emergency departments, in order to provide care more quickly for more seriously ill patients in our emergency departments," the statement concluded.

It's a sentiment shared by Doctors Nova Scotia, but the organization notes patience is a two-way street.

"The role of the emergency department, really, truly, is to rule out limb or life-threatening illnesses," said the group's president,” Dr. Leisha Hawker, “That being said, patients should still always feel heard, and listened to and that their concerns are being addressed.”

“Whenever I'm seeing a patient, my hope is that, after they go home and talk to loved ones, that they felt heard, that they were able to explain their situation, and that I got it.  I understood where they were coming from," said Hawker, adding a patient should first try to deal with the issue directly with the doctor.

If that doesn't work, the matter can be escalated  to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia or the Nova Scotia College of Nursing

For his part, Silverman says his issue was never about specific workers, but the system that's got them to this point.

"When you break them, when that occurs, it really becomes a 'I don't have the time to listen to you right now. I've got so much else to do.'  And that's what I got.  It wasn't, 'I don't want to.'  It was, 'I simply don't have the time,'" said Silverman, "And treat our healthcare workers better.  I think that absolutely will down into better healthcare for patients, because I can't believe that people will go into this to be dismissive, to be mean.

 "I can't believe that." Top Stories

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