St. Paul’s Hospital

Name of Hospital: St. Paul’s Hospital

City, State/Province, Country: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Number of Stars: 1

Comment: I have been to St. Paul’s twice. On my first visit, I was taken by ambulance and accompanied by a police officer from a location where I intended to complete suicide. I stayed overnight in a unit that was part of the emergency department. When I was taken from the waiting area to the unit, I was surrounded by four security guards who stayed with me until I had changed into hospital clothes and given up my clothes and all of my belongings. I found this very stressful (I have PTSD, in part from how I have been treated in hospitals) as well as unnecessary, given that I was not in any way violent or threatening.

I asked to keep a small notebook with me but was told I was not allowed to have any of my possessions. I eventually went to sleep, but I was woken up in the middle of the night by a doctor. There was a crucifix on the wall and the doctor was wearing a rosary, which made me uncomfortable. The doctor was kind of snarky when interviewing me. At some point the following day, I had a panic attack and approached a nurse for help. I was hyperventilating and was not able to speak. The nurse told me to go away until I could tell her what I needed. With no other way to cope with how I was feeling, I resorted to self-harming using something I found in the unit.

This was a general acute care emergency unit, so while I was not allowed to keep any of my own clothing or belongings, it was not at all difficult to find something to self-harm with. I remained there until sometime in the afternoon when I was seen together by a psychiatrist and a resident or medical student. The psychiatrist offered to prescribe me an SSRI. As I had already tried several without any benefit, I was not interested. Because I did not agree to take this medication, I was told there was nothing they could do for me and I was discharged with no follow-up plan. Immediately after leaving the hospital, I returned to where I had been arrested under the Mental Health Act, planning to complete my suicide, and was again arrested and taken to another hospital.

The second time I went to St. Paul’s, I took myself there after my mental health worker told me that if I didn’t, she would have the police come get me at my work. I was taken in right away and spent the first night in a small locked psychiatric unit attached to the emergency department. There were about six beds with curtains around them, plus one washroom. I was forced to change into hospital clothing and was told to take off all of my own clothing including my underwear. I’m not sure why I wasn’t supposed to keep my underwear, but I did anyway and no one said anything.

The nursing staff stayed in a separate room and had almost no contact with the patients. There were other patients, but they were behind curtains and I had very little interaction with anyone. I was left alone on a hospital bed with nothing to do but sleep. At some point, I saw a psychiatrist who told me she wanted me to be admitted to a unit upstairs to try a new medication. After I was taken upstairs, I stayed for three more nights. Again, this was a locked unit and the nursing staff stayed in a separate room and had little interaction with the patients. If you needed something, there was a window you were supposed to go speak to a nurse through.

The unit was very old and sometimes there was no hot water to shower. The windows were draughty and it was quite cold. There were some magazines and books available to read, some exercise equipment, a TV, and one phone available for patient use. When a friend came to visit me, she was not allowed to bring anything into the unit to me, and was made to leave her belongings (handbag, cellphone) with the nurses. My nurse told me that I needed to engage with being in the hospital, and that being in the hospital was a form of treatment. Maybe she thought I was spending too much time in my room? As the nursing staff had almost no interaction with the patients, I still don’t know what it was I was supposed to be engaging with.

Although I’d been told that I was being admitted to try a new medication, the psychiatrist I saw in the unit did not make any changes to my medication. I don’t think I was really offered any sort of treatment, other than being kept in a locked unit. The psychiatrist was critical of me when we spoke. Apparently I didn’t make eye contact enough when speaking with her. I found the whole experience very unhelpful, and only a matter of weeks later I was admitted to a different hospital.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): inpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: transgender, queer, fat

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