Government Hospital Grannies

Tseung Kwan O Hospital, located in the New Territories district of Hang Hau, is a government-subsidized public hospital run by the Hospital Authority. Due to the inexpensive costs for eligible citizens of Hong Kong, many of those admitted to the wards for overnight stay are elderly ladies. The ward for non-intensive care is on the eighth floor, with visiting hours between 12:30-13:30 and 18:00-20:00.

Broadly speaking, it seems that there are five main types of grannies in the ward. Sometimes, a single patient can fit into more than one of these categories. The few younger patients (aged between 18 to 30) were calmer and more attentive, and thus not very interesting subjects. The same went with the middle-aged women (with one exception).

There are two types of grannies that appear the most manageable for the ward nurses: those that are reasonable and compliant, and those that are silent or unresponsive. The latter tend to lay in their beds and simply exist with no trouble, and the former mind their own business and do as the nurses say. The ward nurses also tend to be nicer to these grannies because of their complete lack of resistance, as they make the nurses’ jobs much easier.

The remaining three types of grannies are as follows:

The escape artist granny is a silly but cunning lady who tries to leave the hospital ward without permission from the nurses or the doctors. She wanders towards the door, appearing innocent and benign, but when questioned, she acts as though she has lost her way to the toilet, or to her bed. Of course, the nurses are aware of this, but they are gentle and friendly with these grannies anyway because they are not creating nuisances in the ward. At times, if the escape artist granny is particularly creative, she may create a diversion that might allow her to run off. The instance I witnessed involved the granny emptying her bowels on her ward bed and walking off, acting as though nothing had happened even after being reprimanded by the nurses.

The loud and needy grannies are by far the most attention-grabbing of the lot. Their incessant yells only stop when they are attended, implying that they see themselves entitled to extra care from nurses and relatives alike. There is no love lost between them and the other ward patients, as their vocal noise will continue far into the night and prevent other patients from getting their much-needed rest. One particular granny banged a hard plastic apparatus on her metal bed frame, screaming the name of her maid even though her maid was not allowed to be in the ward at that hour; her neighbours did not appreciate the noise and asked her to cease her performance, but to no avail. This granny went on about firing her maid because she was not immediately available; she was finally silenced during visiting hours, when the maid returned.

Finally, there are the mentally unstable grannies. These can be difficult to manage for the nurses, but generally the ones that stay in the ward are the ones that do not cause too much trouble. There were not many of these at Tseung Kwan O Hospital; only one was noticeable due to her police siren noises. She sat in her bed with the most non-chalant look and her mouth open, with wailing that sounded like cries of extreme pain regardless of the hour of day. Looking at her face without sound, one would have guessed that she was having a nice day with a little trouble closing her mouth.

All of these grannies and their families take good advantage of the public hospital, and for good reason. Unfortunately, because of the low cost of all actions and procedures, it seems that the ward is a little understaffed and a bit crowded. Some of the rooms in the ward house eight beds, while some have only three. Only two rooms have doors—the isolation rooms, which have one bed each and a second small enclosed area between the ward and the room, possibly for gowning and minimizing airflow or contamination between the room and the ward. The cacophony of the ward is truly a symphony of crows at times, though most of the noise is created by a select few. It is difficult to create a good healing environment with such limited resources.

Tseung Kwan O Hospital is surely not the only place to find these government hospital grannies, but it may be the easiest for visitors because this hospital is relatively clean and new. Looking at some of them, I fear for my future and that of my peers; I hope we grow to be the reasonable grannies in old age.


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