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The Hospital

Dispatches from inside one of Canada's busiest health care institutions

Entry archive:

Why the future of health care may depend on tearing down the hospital

Carly Weeks

Adel Doss has seen the inside of a hospital too many times to count.

The 54-year-old Toronto resident, who has Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, fell in his home last fall, leaving him with two broken arms and so frail he had to be hospitalized.

Mr. Doss spent a month recuperating at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Because he also had a bacterial infection, he was given a private room. It costs more than $1,000 a day, on average, for a bed in an acute-care hospital in Canada.

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The Big Picture: The best of The Hospital series

To understand the challenges facing hospitals across the country – and how we might fix them - Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre teamed up with The Globe and Mail last fall for a rare partnership.

Starting in September, journalists were given access to everything from emergency rooms to surgical suites to specialized units – as well as both patients and experts who could speak to how they operate.

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Life’s last milestone: Why a ‘good death’ matters

SANDRA MARTIN

David McMaster was dying. What shocked his family was the way it happened.

“We were robbed of the chance to say a proper goodbye,” says his daughter Susan.

Mr. McMaster, 80, had been in and out of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in 2010 with a series of complex circulatory and kidney problems. Eventually he also contracted C difficile, a hospital based-infection. After a week in the Intensive Care Unit on a breathing machine, doctors decided nothing more could be done; it was time to move him to “comfort care.”

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The Big Picture: Palliative care patient Donald Parr

Kevin Van Paassen

Globe photojournalist Kevin Van Paassen visited Donald Parr and his family several times over the course of about a four-week period, including seeing him on Christmas Day as he celebrated the holidays with his family. This gallery features images of Mr. Parr, who was 86 at the time. Read the related story Why a ‘good death’ matters by Senior Feature writer Sandra Martin and explore the rest of The Hospital series."

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Better by design: How a hospital room can help patients heal

CARLY WEEKS

In the critical-care unit at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, patients hover between life and death. Nurses and doctors do their best to make them comfortable and stable in hopes of aiding recovery.

And yet the physical environment where they work is constantly undermining their efforts. The open-concept design, which dates back to the Crimean War, makes it more difficult to contain the spread of hospital-acquired infections. The noise from machines, staff and overhead announcements constantly interrupts rest. Fluorescent lights and little access to windows keep patients cut off from the world, unsure if it’s day or night.

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How hospitals are on the front lines in a new era of germ warfare

CARLY WEEKS

We want to hear about health care in your community: What works, what doesn’t, and what you think we should do about it. Share your experiences – and ideas for change. Follow @Globe_Health, tweet with #thehospital or email thehospital@globeandmail.com to join the conversation.

Leontina Da Costa and Millicent Linton pick up the lightweight hospital mattress in a room on the orthopedic and neurosurgical unit at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and scrub it with vigour normally reserved for the removal of red wine from white upholstery. The swishing sound of their microfibre cloths repeatedly assaulting the green waterproof cover provides a hypnotic soundtrack to their work.

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The Big Picture: Housekeeping's role has never been more important

Kevin Van Paassen

Globe photographer Kevin Van Paassen has spent countless hours at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre since September capturing the drama and the routine of the institution. This gallery features images of Sunnybrook Environmental Services workers whose role at the hospital has never been more important. Read the related story The new germ warfare  by Health Reporter Carly Weeks and explore the rest of The Hospital series.

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How one hospital is dealing with Canada's aging population

SANDRA MARTIN

We want to hear about health care in your community: What works, what doesn’t, and what you think we should do about it. Share your experiences – and ideas for change. Follow @Globe_Health, tweet with #thehospital or email thehospital@globeandmail.com to join the conversation.

When universal health care was in its infancy, real estate agent Sharron Baker was a young woman. Now, like the health-care system itself, she is aging and in need of a refit. After cheerfully enduring a decades-long love/hate relationship with her left knee, Ms. Baker, 67, had replacement surgery at Sunnybrook’s Holland Orthopedic and Arthritic Centre in downtown Toronto in November.

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The Big Picture: Take a tour through Sunnybrook Veterans Centre and look in on a knee surgery

Kevin Van Paassen

Globe photographer Kevin Van Paassen has spent countless hours at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre since September capturing the drama and the routine of the institution. This gallery features images from the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre, a facility that may prove to be the prototype of future care centres, and a patient and her doctor as she undergoes knee surgery. Read the related story How one hospital is dealing with Canada's aging population by Sandra Martin and explore the rest of The Hospital series.

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To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? For nurses, that question may soon be answered for them

CARLY WEEKS

This is part of The Globe’s months-long series on the challenges facing Canadian hospitals. All of our published material has been reported with permission from staff.

The idea of a SARS-like pandemic or the outbreak of a new virulent disease is enough to frighten anyone. But every year, hospitals have to contend with an infectious illness that takes over wards, kills patients and creates mayhem throughout the institution.

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How the ice storm raised the stakes for patient triage at Sunnybrook

SANDRA MARTIN

This is part of The Globe’s months-long series on the challenges facing Canadian hospitals. All of our published material has been reported with permission from staff.

Hospitals are like cities in which emergency, surgery, general medicine and other departments are neighbourhoods linked by corridors or thoroughfares. Usually, they exist in isolation, unaware of the human dramas playing out on the other side of the medical street.

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What hospitals need: peace and quiet

CARLY WEEKS

On a recent Thursday, around 6:45 a.m., the hospital’s main foyer is mostly empty – a dramatic and welcome change from the logjam of patients, visitors and staff who continuously march through here during the day. But up on the medical floors, it is difficult to distinguish the early-morning hour from any other time of day at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

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How high-tech simulations ready med students for real-life situations

SANDRA MARTIN

Several years ago, when I needed a minor operation, I asked my brother-in-law, a hematologist, for the lowdown on my surgeon. “What were his hands like,” he demanded, after my first consultation. “Did they shake?”

My brother-in-law was joking, but his comment made me realize that a firm handshake and a steady eye are as important as gold medal grades. Patients have enough to fret about before an operation or a tricky procedure without worrying if their doctor honed his hand-eye co-ordination playing video games. The good news is that teaching hospitals like Sunnybrook have ultra-expensive and high-tech simulation centres where medical students can practise their suturing and cutting skills on robots instead of people.

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Dialling up the future of consulting your doctor

Sandra Martin

This is part of The Globe’s months-long series on the challenges facing Canadian hospitals. All of our published material has been reported with permission from staff.

I am a downtown person, so the trek to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in North York involves a transit trifecta of streetcar, subway and bus – an hour of travelling time each way unless something goes wrong, as it frequently does. Then, my commute can double or even triple in length.

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Q&A: How do hospitals deal with superbugs?

Carly Weeks

This is part of The Globe’s months-long series on the challenges facing Canadian hospitals. All of our published material has been reported with permission from staff.

Antibiotic resistance and the rising threat of superbugs are major challenges facing hospitals across the country. The overuse of antibiotics has allowed many types of bacteria to become resistant, meaning they don’t respond to traditional medicines. These resistant organisms, often called “superbugs”, can spread easily in hospitals, where many patients have weakened immune systems and are particularly vulnerable to infection. It’s estimated that 8,000 to 12,000 patients die from hospital-acquired infections each year.

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One bittersweet departure from Sunnybrook’s neonatal intensive care

SANDRA MARTIN

This is part of The Globe’s months-long series on the challenges facing Canadian hospitals. All of our published material has been reported with permission from staff.

Joy, fear, love are just skinny words until you embark on parenthood, the largest transformative experience in most people’s lives. Getting there typically involves nothing more traumatic than fatigue and the sturm und drang of labour and delivery.

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How much do we spend on health care in Canada and where does it go?

Matthew Bambach

We want to hear about health care in your community: What works, what doesn’t, and what you think we should do about it. Share your experiences – and ideas for change. Follow @Globe_Health, tweet with #thehospital or email thehospital@globeandmail.com to join the conversation.

 

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What this hospital really needs is a map, stat!

Carly Weeks

This is part of The Globe’s months-long series on the challenges facing Canadian hospitals. All of our published material has been reported with permission from staff.

If you’re ever feeling down and looking for a good pick-me-up, head to your local hospital. Sure, health care institutions usually aren’t a source of good cheer, but watching confused visitors try to navigate the labyrinth of corridors in order to find their destination could soon have you chuckling. Or just shaking your head.

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Fighting the daily battle against infections in the critical-care unit

CARLY WEEKS

This is part of The Globe’s months-long series on the challenges facing Canadian hospitals. All of our published material has been reported with permission from staff.

There’s a row of beds before me, each one holding a patient who might soon exit this world. It’s just after 3 on a Thursday afternoon in the critical-care unit at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The department is busy. The beds are full. I am here to talk to Dr. Brian Cuthbertson, Sunnybrook’s chief of critical-care medicine, about how the department works to prevent the spread of infections.

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Share your stories: Is there an emergency in Canada's emergency rooms?

 

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The Globe and Mail partners with Sunnybrook hospital to explore the challenges on the ground at Sunnybrook hospital and what patients, doctors, nurses and other vital staffers think needs to be done to improve the hospital experience.

Contributors

Sandra Martin

A senior features writer at The Globe, Martin has covered subjects ranging from palliative care and assisted suicide to major political profiles to pieces on arts and culture.

Carly Weeks

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.

Follow Carly on Twitter @carlyweeks

Kevin Van Paassen

Kevin Van Paassen has been a staff photographer with The Globe and Mail since 2004

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