County AIDS Ward Deemed "Open"
The reason I am writing this article is to bring your attention to the following situation: I am a person living with HIV/AIDS and I am concerned for my own health and the health of others. I want County General Hospital to be aware that women with HIV/AIDS need and want our "ward" on 6700 back! 6700 is supposed to be the AIDS ward. It was paid for with AIDS dollars. And now, hospital administrators are telling me that it is an "open" ward.
Unfortunately, I have had to be hospitalized three times during the month of June. Each time I was told that the ward on 6700 was full, and therefore, I was placed on ward 8600. I was told that this is the "sister" ward to 6700. It didn't look like any sister ward to me. It was crowded and dirty. On 8600 I had to share a room with five (5) other women with one bathroom for the six of us. The bathroom did not have a shower! The whole ward all together holds 20 people, and you have to share the shower! I was very sick in the hospital. Going down the hall to take a shower with my IV pole was hard on me because I was so sick. I was extremely short of breath (I had PCP) and had to go halfway down the hall just to find out that the shower was filthy. I found the shower full of wheelchairs, old bedpans, and rags. Also, in the sink there were some very old and rusty surgical tools that looked as though they had been in there for a very long time.
I feel that as HIV positive people, we should only have to worry about getting well, especially when we are in the hospital. But instead, I had to worry about the room being crowded and people coughing on me. I had to worry about whether or not the shower was clean enough to get into. I had to worry about whether or not I was going to catch something else from using the bathroom. And I had to worry about my HIV medications because I didn't know how much the nurses on duty knew about HIV or what their experience was in treating people with HIV. On 6700 (the former AIDS ward), you knew that you would get the best care available and that the staff knew a lot about HIV and AIDS and how to treat the illnesses that come with it. On 8600, I was worried because I had started Viramune before being hospitalized and in a day or two it would be time to up my dose. The nurse on duty on 8600 didn't know anything about Viramune and was not going to up my dose.
In the past, when I had been a patient on the ward at 6700, I was very comfortable with the staff. They took excellent care of me. All of the staff on 6700 are very knowledgeable about HIV and AIDS. They all care about how we feel. It's comforting to know that they will try to save your life.
I am currently faced with another problem. I have to got back into the hospital. I am afraid to be admitted because I will probably be placed on some other ward and not the AIDS ward. In the other wards there are a lot of people who come from a lot of different places including the streets, the missions, and the homeless shelters. Many of these folks have not yet been tested for TB or other contagious diseases that could be very harmful to a person with HIV.
We have formed a committee to try to get the AIDS ward back for everyone with HIV/AIDS. Please help us.
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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.