Rush to the past

by Evans Yonson

(Note: This is continuation from last Saturday´s entry on Hospital Sant Pau, here in Barcelona.)

While waiting for some more patients to come in, I glanced upon a brochure of the hospital. I found out that this hospital has a long history. The hospital is more than 600 years old. The hospital was born as six Barcelona hospitals merged to become the Hospital de la Santa Creu. In the early 20th century, Pau Gil commissioned the famous architect, Lluis Domenech i Montaner to build a new edifice, the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. In 2003, the latest building of the hospital began its operation. Most healthcare activities have been transferred to the newest building in the block. However, due to the enormous number of emergency cases daily, the old building is still being utilized for that purpose. The hospital’s mission is to serve as a community-based and patient-focused reference center.

The hospital is also a research center with several affiliated institutions supporting its endeavors like, among others, the Fundacio Biblioteca Josep Laporte (an institute for global knowledge management in health and life sciences to promote research and teaching through the use of information and communication technology), the Col-legi Oficial de Metges de Barcelona (an institute created in 1894 to support doctors in the practice of medicine at the same time setting standards for clinical practice and the delivery high quality care), and the Col-legi Oficial Infermeria de Barcelona (a nurses’ association established to facilitate and promote professional development in the nursing profession). The hospital has medical, surgical, laboratory and other services. The hospital is also a teaching center for the medical field of the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona. The hospital compound has the University’s Medical School, the School Nursing, the Speech-Language Pathology School and the Family Therapy School. In 1992, the hospital created its Institut de Recerca, which is aimed at promoting clinical, basic, epidemiological and health services research in health sciences and biomedicine to contribute to the improvements and advancements to the betterment of the citizens. The hospital is also open to tourists the whole week and it even offers free guided tours daily to see the works of Lluis Domenech i Montaner.

Two more sick children came in with their parents. This time everybody was coughing, I had the strange sensation that anytime soon I will contract these children’s health problem as I was beginning not feel well myself. Again, I pretended to be looking at my watch and took my mobile phone out and called someone. I raised my voice for everyone to realize that I was waiting for my child and my wife, who were waiting for me now at the hospital entrance door. The first father sighed and I said goodbye to everyone and wished them a happy weekend ahead. When I walked out of the waiting room, the nurse in white uniform glanced upon me and gave me a strange look. I knew that look right away as if asking me, how I entered the waiting room without a patient in tow. I told her thank you and my wife and child were done already with the consultation. She gave me a smile and I went out with my notes and ready for my weekend.

I am back in the hospital. It’s the Monday after Easter, a holiday for the Catalan region. I had a not-so wonderful weekend for it was raining the whole time. I am here again for my second observation of another four hours but this time, I am going to the adult-patients’ waiting area. It is drizzling now and I am just thankful that I brought my umbrella. There are several tourists and most of them are Asian-looking, probably Chinese or Japanese, I thought to myself. Their gazes are that of bewilderment to see the architectural works of this hospital. Camera clicks could be heard and these tourists are really noisy that the security person had to approach them and asked them to keep quiet and reminded that they were in a hospital. Suddenly, the building lobby is tranquil again. The hospital is renovating its waiting room and they have this makeshift container-van at the back of the main building.

As I entered that makeshift waiting room, there were about 17 older people waiting for someone, thirteen women and four men. All of them are Caucasian-looking people. No one looked like somebody from South America or Asia or Africa. Seven of these women are accompanied by what looked like their children who are mostly in their teens. The men are older, probably in their 60s. One was reading a paper. The other man was on the phone talking to someone. The other is reading a very thick book in Catalan, I couldn’t bring myself to knowing the title. If these are enough indications, I would say that there are more men in the emergency room admitted as patients than women. What could have happened over the Easter weekend that led to have more patients on this early Monday morning? If these patients were Catholics, shouldn’t be they eating fish over the weekend? If they did, then why are they here? I wrote several pages of notes about these people that I will discuss lengthily after I have described how this room looked like.

This room has two doors, one that goes to the old emergency room (northern part of the room) and the other leads to the hospital grounds (western part of the room). The walls are painted white. The north and south walls have glass windows. Both the east and west walls have on the upper part what look like a heating and an air-conditioning system. Upon entering the waiting room from the emergency room, you will immediately see the hospital grounds and its marvelous colors, the architecture and the blue skies. Above the glass windows are four sound speakers that do not emit any music at all. There are plants found in the four corners of the room. It look like they are plastic from afar but upon closer look, those are for real. The floor is covered by linoleum plastic and it looks like it has been for more than a year now. It is dirty and worn out by the hundreds of families that come here and wait for their patients.

There are 22 red-benches of four seats each. This room has a seating capacity of 88 persons but could actually accommodate more than 100 with the rest standing. But I doubt if this room could ever be filled to the brim, in summer maybe. Some people would eventually go out and smoke. The seats are so closed, like bus seats, that you lose personal space in this room. Being alone is the room could probably make me crazy. Relatives come in droves and they all talk about what happened to their patient. If you are alone, the worry level just shoots up to the roof. I also wonder why the benches are colored red. This color weakens the immune system according to some research. It may mean life but most, if not all, Chinese restaurants used red table clothes. It looks like that this is not true here in Spain. These people look like they are restless and couldn’t stop talking about anything at all.

(to be concluded)