CHU de Grenoble, Grenoble Hospital

I’ve been thinking for some time of starting this blog, but it took my experience yesterday at Grenoble’s Hopital Nord to get me really motivated. France is not a bad place, nor is the CHU Hospital. The pediatric surgery team was great, son’s surgery and recovery went very well. All in all a good experience. BUT, there were those few annoying and/or frightening details that seem to pop up on an almost daily basis. The first: When the (male) anesthiologist came to carry away our son, in his arms, to the operating block, I catch a whiff of musky perfume, the kind that gives me instant mild asthma and sometimes headaches. Now, it wasn’t horribly strong, just enough to make me uncomfortable in my breathing. But of course my thougts were with my son, who has “infantile asthma”, as we had declared to another anesthesiologist upon consultation prior to admission. Now, doctors should know that perfumes and asthma do not mix, so why in the hell would ANY doctor, let alone an anesthesiologist, wear perfume or cologne at the hosptial? Everything went OK for us, luckily, but suppose someone more sensitive than myself finds himself having an asthma attack moments before undergoing anesthesia, thanks to perfumed doctors? I haven’t complained to the hospital administration yet, but I plan to. (More to come on the problem of ubiquitous perfumes in France).

The second and more outrageous fact was the discovery of dozens of cigarettes butts (and smell of stale cigarette smoke) in one of the hospital stairwells that serve as emergency exits.  Having “time to kill” while my son was undergoing surgery, my wife and I decided to take the stairs down to the lobby (mind you, the hospital is 14 stories high, and with my wife and son spending 2 nights in the pedriatric ward on the 9th, we thought it might in fact be a good idea to see where the emergency stair exits were).  At each level as we descended we saw cigarette butts stamped out on the stairs or dunked in half-filled plastic cups of coffee or water bottles, and even tossed into black plastic trash bags with papers and and other trash (the bags apparently placed there by cleaning staff to try to contain the mess). On one level there was even an apparent “smoker’s seat”, a ratty old fabric seated chair, the back cushion of which appeared to have been burned or smoke damaged. Smoking is of course strictly forbidden in the hospital, and certainly none the less so in the emergency exit stairwell; and yet I sensed these were not patients or visitors that were sneaking smokes here. This hunch was confirmed when I saw the latex glove amidst the butts on one level, and the hospital mask amidst those on another. Here are a couple of photos:

Hospital emergency stairwell

Emergency stairwell

Smokering chair in Emergency Stairwell

Smoking chair in Emergency Stairwell

So what can I say? I’m not a fire expert and I don’t really know what would happen if a bag of trash or a lone upholstered chair happened to be ablaze when an emergency required a general evacuation via the stairs. But that’s just the point, we anglos tend to think safety first, better safe than sorry, rules are rules, etc. France is different though:  Safety is for others and generally speaking rules are seen more as “good practices” than mandatory, because there are rarely consequences for breaking them.

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