Saturday, April 15, 2006

Not Enough Complaints

Sometimes I don’t know who’s crazier, my patients or the Green Acres administrators. I guess it should stand, or not stand, to reason that in a mental hospital many things would be done in a backwards, inverted, or upside-down fashion. Yet it never ceases to bewilder me.

Some while back, in the interest of promoting patients’ rights, someone devised a system of “grievances”. If a patient has a complaint about a staff member or situation, he or she fills out a form in triplicate carbon-copy and places it in one of the conveniently located “grievance boxes”. At the time, I had suggested that there should also be corresponding “compliment boxes”, where patients could comment on things or staff that were going or behaving positively, just so we weren’t constantly encouraging only negative thinking. This of course was before I learned to keep my mouth shut. The suggestion was considered either a joke or subversive, depending.

Anyway, on occasion the “grievances” are pertinent and accurate, but more often are pretty far-fetched, and sometimes quite amusing. Patients “grieve” each other at least as often as they “grieve” staff. It’s particularly interesting when a new person comes, raises wild hell on the unit for days or weeks, finally gets a little better, then writes vehement complaints about a new admission who is raising wild hell on the unit. Also there is a section on the form that asks, “What would you like done about this?” The patients are often very creative in the “remedies” they suggest doling out to each other.

Then, regardless of merit, each and every “grievance” must be screened by our wonderful and long-suffering Peer Support Worker, and passed up the chain of command for response. The other day he (PSW) had a particularly large stack of grievances (eight for one day), so I borrowed the pile to review during a meeting. They included such complaints as: “X and Y keep putting their heads up each other’s asses. They should be punished severely”, and, “Z is a total whore and I am a martial arts master. Someone should shut her up or get her out of here” and “W used witchcraft to break the whirlpool tub and then told me I couldn’t have a whirlpool. She should be fired immediately.”

Anway, PSW noted that our unit is, by far, leading the hospital in numbers of grievances—over two hundred in the past year. This immediately concerned me, partly because a few of them may have been valid, but also because I loathe drawing the scrutiny of administrators. That aphorism, “The nail that sticks up will be hammered down”, is very true at G.A. But PSW reassured me. “They’re actually really happy about it upstairs”, she said. “A while back they told us we weren’t gathering enough grievances, and we needed to get more. I’ve brought back way more than the other units, so they’re really impressed.”

See what I mean?


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