ISoSL Le Petit Bourgogne

Name of Hospital: ISoSL Le Petit Bourgogne

City, State/Province, Country: Liège, Belgium

Number of Stars: 2

Comment: I’ve been there a few times between 2009 and 2011. I was dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety. This is the only “general” psych hospital in the city (to my knowledge). There are others, who target specific illnesses, but this is the one where you end up when they don’t know where to send you after you’ve been admitted in the ER.

It was built after the war by the city to care for the poor people who couldn’t afford anything else, and the facilities have been improved very little since then – the bathrooms are recent though. The main issue is it’s small. And the hospital has to care for a lot of patients. There are no rooms for being alone – which was and still is essential to me. 4 beds in a room, sometimes 2.The isolation room is sometimes used as a regular room because they don’t know where else to put people. At times the homeless come here, especially in the winter, the shelters are also full and it’s hard not to find them in deep pain, but a lot of them vanish after a while, they are at best ignored by the patients.

There is a “living room” (espace de vie) with three tables, a television that is always on from 7am to 11pm (this was driving me mad), a terribly stinky smoking room, and a refectory that was closed most of the time. The pills had to be given in the hall on a cart. There was also a small examination room and the nurse parlor. This is fine in the summer, because I could stay out in the small park surrounding the hospital, but during the winter I was getting claustrophobic – especially since I was not always allowed to leave the ward in the first weeks due to suicide attempts (the door wasn’t closed though, and I slipped away several times to buy cigarettes).

It’s hard to complain about the nurses. They are always busy with paperwork and meetings, and have very little time to talk to the patients. During the afternoon their door was mostly closed because they were in meetings and such. But this is not their fault. They are understaffed in a crammed hospital and they do what they can. One of them took time to roleplay with me after hours.

Everybody is in a rush. Sometimes even the psychiatrists are hard to get to talk to. They visit a few days a week, but they don’t have time to see everybody. Some people stay there without seeing them for two, three weeks. I was not always taken seriously. The psychologist was dismissive of the pain I was feeling, and the psychiatrist had sometimes a little irrepressible smile when I was explaining what was happening to me. She didn’t plan anything other than me staying there and taking pills anyway. There are bad doctors there though. One woman committed suicide after being discharged although explicitly stating she was suicidal and couldn’t handle living by herself. I still have a little picture of her that her family distributed to remember her.

They are often patronizing. The voice of the “mad” is not taken seriously – they often make comments and jokes about you – all staff included. I was 20, so the nurses were using the informal pronoun with me (tu) instead of the formal one (vous) and this made me angry. There were some activities, but almost none of them where organized. You just had to go and show up at the gym or at the ergotherapy room to do something. By something it was mostly running on a treadmill or making drawings because, yes, they are understaffed and just don’t have time to organize anything other than relaxation sessions. There is a swimming pool (!), but no one to guard it. Basically you just say “yes I promise I can swim and I won’t drown” and off you go.

Most people just stay around the ward to chat and chain smoke cigarettes – like me. The hygiene was not always good. There were often small epidemics : flu, fongus, gastroenteritis, etc. It’s hard to get to see a GP, there is one visiting once a week, and they don’t have time to see everybody who need it. During my stay I’ve been food poisoned twice by badly cooked meat. They take diets seriously though. They cater for vegetarians. I myself who didn’t like cheese got special trays without cheese.

There are also drugs running around sometimes, as well as alcohol. They rarely have time to check. I asked repeatedly that they do something because I’m an alcoholic and a drug user and I didn’t want to flinch. Eventually they did one but the person dealing drugs had already left the ward.

Most people can go out on weekends and/or on Wednesdays, visits are allowed on the weekend and you can use your phone, laptop, whatever. They don’t have time to do micromanagement anyway. They rarely force patients to do anything other than being clean and quiet.

I don’t think this is a good place for women who need to feel safe. I’ve heard of abuse that the hospital didn’t take seriously. Eventually I left for another hospital, but the second time I just discharged myself because this place was driving me even more mad that I already was. I’ll never go to a private clinic though. I’ll never be able to afford it and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. We need better public hospitals and that’s all there is to it.

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

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