Ultra Sounds Monday, February 27, 2012

Today’s entry takes a comic turn. For those of you who rely on the trustworthy advice of Trip Advisor, here is a Trip Advisor “Review” of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. This is written by a friend of mine, Jim Barnes, a multiple myeloma patient. We share the same wonderful hematologist and receive the same medical treatment at the chemo unit (although he’s a Thursday guy and I’m a Tuesday gal). For those of you who are are not from this area, Princess Margaret is a remarkable research and treatment hospital for cancer.




A great place for cancer care, if you are not too demanding 

by Jim Barnes


If you are considering getting care for your cancer, Princess Margaret might be a good choice. They have world-renowned specialists, excellent nurses, and a generally efficient and caring staff. Some of the facilities have been upgraded, but others are showing their age.


Accommodation at the clinics, chemo unit, and blood labs is sometimes a little crowded. Advance reservations are definitely recommended. Palapas are hard to find. Waiting room chairs vary a bit in their comfort level. One positive is that there are seldom problems with people using towels to reserve their chairs. The chairs are not too bad if you’re feeling fairly well, but they are not recommended for those in pain–a good idea to take your pain killers and bring extras.


In my experience, the physicians are dedicated and give guests as much time as they require, and this can lead to some long waits. The nurses do what they can given the constraints they are under. After getting my chemo fairly quickly on my last visit, the nurse explained how lucky I was because for the previous two days staff shortages had kept one chemo unit closed and this caused 3 hour waits. Tipping is discouraged, though the occasional kind or grateful comment will go a long way with the staff.


The clientele varies in age from the very young to the elderly, with a preponderance of older guests. Dress is usually casual. Bathing suits are discouraged in the restaurants and clinics. This does not seem to be a party crowd.


Food choices are somewhat limited, though we’ve only used the “a la carte” and I can’t comment on the “all-inclusive” option. There’s a Tim Horton’s with a limited menu and a Druxy’s. The lines for the Tim’s are often fairly long, though the staff is efficient. The Druxy’s offers their usual fare and it’s not bad, though definitely not gourmet. If you’re willing to go off-site, Baldwin Street, one block east, has a good selection of restaurants. Parking in the area is expensive, though until Toronto goes through with the proposed changes to handicapped parking, you can park on the street without charge with a handicapped permit, even in the restricted spaces opposite the school.


Within the hospital, the bartenders are volunteers and usually quite pleasant, though the drink choices are somewhat limited: no wines, beer. or pina coladas. They will offer a cookie to go with your drink. Entertainment is usually limited to solo performances by wiling volunteers. Show times are a little haphazard, usually over the noon hour on the main floor. We haven’t stayed for any of the late night extravaganzas or attended the discos and so I can’t comment on them. A few large screen televisions are scattered around, but these are usually tuned to CP24.


In the three years we’ve been traveling to PMH, management has made some improvements, perhaps as a result of some earlier negative postings. Waiting times for the blood labs are definitely shorter, and the new chemo unit is much more comfortable with water, tea, complimentary newspapers, and available television.


Check-in is somewhat impersonal. The hospital seems to have a policy of wanting to keep check-in staff away from guests. Guests are required to leave their  cards in plastic boxes rather than to seek personal service.  As well, even when the staff know that the waits will be long, they are discouraged from informing guests of this. This means that guests sometimes sit for long periods when they could be elsewhere: visiting friends, shopping, or going out for a meal. The pagers in the chemo unit at least allow for some flexibility about where you spend your time. Checkout is quick and there are no lineups of staff looking for tips at the end of your stay.


Overall, PMH is a great place to visit and receive care. It’s only 2 or 3 stars for accommodation, but 4 stars for care.  It is definitely not for those who aren’t patient with waiting or who are too demanding.

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