THUNDER BAY – HEALTH – Donna Brown has volunteered at the Information Desk at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) since it opened in 2004. She and fellow volunteers provide much needed directions and answers to patients and visitors to the hospital.
However, recently, Brown and the other Information Desk volunteers started to get a lot of complaints from visitors frustrated about an increased focus on individuals leaving their vehicles unattended in front of the main entrance.
The road in front of the main entrance had always been a fire lane. Unattended vehicles were not allowed, and signage to that effect has always been in place. As a result of working collaboratively with Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, TBRHSC enhanced efforts to keep the fire lane clear. A security guard was assigned to the front entrance to remind visitors of the requirements during the last several weeks.
“People did not like to be told they had to park in a lot and walk over to the main entrance,” says Brown.
For patients who required assistance, it was recommended they be dropped off with an escort at the main entrance, while the driver continued to the parking lot. “That can be difficult for seniors bringing in another senior,” says Brown. “Some don’t have one person they can call to help, let alone two.”
In the meantime, leaders at TBRHSC were working to find an alternate solution.
“We recognize that the situation was frustrating for many visitors, patients and family members and
that some of our patients require assistance getting into the building,” says Peter Myllymaa, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Services and Operations, TBRHSC. “So it was very important for us to work with individuals expert in the Codes as well as with Patient Family Advisors, to find a long-term solution that would be acceptable to both Thunder Bay Fire Rescue and our patients and families.”
A working group was formed with managers from clinical areas and environmental services. To get the perspective of patients on the proposed solution, TBRHSC also engaged Patient Family Advisors, or PFAs – patients turned volunteers.
“I’ve seen a lot of congestion at the main entrance,” says Gary Cooper, one of three PFAs on the working group.
“With 38 years’ experience in the Ontario Provincial Police, I’ve always had an interest in traffic and ensuring it moves smoothly and safely, so I was interested in what was being proposed.”
The committee learned from the input of the hospital architect that the front entrance fire lane exceeded the Building Code requirements. Therefore, there was much support and rationale to re-designate the route. The primary fire access route for the hospital remains at the cafeteria – or east entrance. The committee also felt strongly that the front main entrance continue to serve as a drop-off for patients who require assistance. As a result, the assisted pick-up and drop-off lane will be clearly indicated with painted lines and the maximum parking time in that lane is ten minutes. The plan has also been endorsed by the City’s Thunder Bay Fire Rescue.
While Cooper says he expects the new plan to improve the flow of traffic, he realizes the solution may still need some fine-tuning. “If, later on, it’s not working, I hope we’ll come back together to work on a refined solution.”Andrée Robichaud, President and CEO of TBRHSC, says this is another demonstration of the genuine role PFAs play in the organization to ensure that the voice of the patient is represented in our decision-making. “Patient and Family Advisors have direct input and influence on the policies, programs, and practices that affect the care and services that patients and families receive every day.”