Hospital beds and different genders

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It is with interest that I have been reading and listening to stories about mixed gender stays at Eastern Health facilities.

In the June 8 edition of The Weekend Telegram there was a story by Garrett Barry about Tom Stamp, a 70-year-old C.B.S. man who had his hip replaced and stayed in a mixed-gender room. The patient didn’t like it.

I’m not 70, but when I was 62 I broke my hip in a silly accident on a Sunday.

The surgery was done on Monday and I was released on Tuesday.

The next day, I gave a golf lesson while standing on my crutches.

Before I left hospital the nurses asked me to speak to a man my age who had been there for months and who had had the same surgery as mine.

When I asked him why he was there so long, his answer was, “it hurts.”

That’s what this story does to me, it hurts.

What’s the issue?

I was not placed in a mixed gender room.

My insurance provided me with a private room but there were none available so I shared it with three other men.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why a man would object to sharing a room with a woman.

What is that we have that we are afraid some woman might see?

Quite frankly, I would be more embarrassed by a young man seeing what his body is eventually going to look like.

I lived in Europe for six years and was the victim of a suicide attack while there.

That was 20 years ago and I shared a hospital room with a woman.

Female nurses bathed me and changed me behind my privacy curtain and, other than my helplessness, I was not embarrassed.

 Similarly, the woman who shared the room with me also had her dressings changed behind her privacy curtain.

We talked for hours and embarrassment and discomfort because of our different sexes was never an issue. We used the same bathroom to relieve ourselves and at my office, both sexes used the same bathrooms.

What’s the message?

I don’t understand this hangup over staying in the same room as a woman that is not your spouse.

Is it because we men feel that we can’t trust ourselves?

One of my best friends is a woman. She was my best man at my wedding. We will never have a sexual relationship and I would be as comfortable around her naked as I’m sure she would be around me.

Is this what this issue is all about? Nudity?

And if it’s not nudity then what is it?

Did this patient fear that the woman who shared the room with him was going to try and peep through the curtain to see him?

My God, we are old men! Don’t we wish someone would peep at us!

Tom Stamp and I share the same first name but that’s about all we have in common.

Patients, not genders

I applaud Eastern Health for seeing the person as a patient first.

Remember when people with disabilities were referred to as disabled people?

Let’s hope we get to the point where we forget about gender and just refer to people as patients.

I am reminded of a quote by George Eliot: “I’m not denying women are foolish: God Almighty made them to match the men.”

This is foolishness of the worse kind.

Tom Badcock writes from St. John’s.

Geographic location: Europe

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  • Now who'd like an enema?
    June 17, 2013 - 13:32

    Mr. Badcock's letter tells us nothing we didn't know - that for every issue the gamut of public opinion varies widely. For example, while I think it would be nice if everything was free, I don't have any real problem paying a few dollars for parking at the Health Science Complex. It's because we have one of the most expensive health care systems in Canada that hospitals in St. John's are forced to charge for parking and - now it seems - to shove men and women in the same dirty, overcrowded hospital rooms. If I have any problem with the latter it's probably more so because I would hate being in a hospital room with another patient of any sex. Nevertheless, I can very much empathize with those who do have a problem with unisex hospital stays. I know from just visiting patients in hospital that many are sensitive to who else might be in the room, and of what sex, when procedures are being carried out, or indeed, when they are simply talking to doctors and nurses about their personal situations. Ridiculing those people is extremely uncouth. Frankly, I'm not sure where things are going with the unisex trend and - most recently - Ottawa's passage of the 'bathroom bill'. The latter was intended, in part, to make things easier for transgendered people or people who aren't quite certain of their gender assignment. But I do have some advice - firstly for hospitals. Ask before shoving an already distressed person into a unisex hospital bed. Secondly - for patients who feel their right to privacy is being breached - politely decline the hospital's offer to shack you up with the opposite sex. Tell them, if necessary, that it is against your religion. If you think that's a joke, ask yourself what would happen if a Muslim woman wearing a hijab, niqab or a burqa were offered a unisex hospital room. Muslims almost always insist on separation by gender outside the home. How long would it take a Charter challenge to reach the Supreme Court if hospitals everywhere were to insist on co-locating patients with members of the opposite sex? The bottom line is that institutions must be sensitive to the reasonable sensitivities of people. And if that means Mr.Badcock and I must continue paying for parking - and other costs of operating a hospital - I'm O.K. with that.

  • Colin Burke
    June 17, 2013 - 09:08

    "I don't understand this hangup...." What one does understand one may be able to oppose with a rational argument, right?

  • Herb Morrison
    June 17, 2013 - 08:36

    Very effectively written. Great balance of truth, humour and common sense.

  • JT
    June 17, 2013 - 07:30

    It's a good thing Tom was only there for one night because he would have had one heck of a parking bill to pay. One month he's taking them to court for charging for parking and the next month applauding them for putting men and women in the same room. Perhaps if you were really sick or had more dignity you would feel differently. Need I say more.,,,,,