Monday, November 21, 2011

The Silo Mentality

I've just spent the last few days running through bureaucratic hurdles to get a piece of paper that is now sitting on the dashboard of my car. What should have been a simple process turned into a 3 day, blood pressure increasing, stress inducing nightmare because too many people were caught into a "not my job" mentality.

In a nutshell, here's what happened. Since the middle of October, I have spent every weekday morning at the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre with my mom as she has radiation for recurrent sqamous cell carcinoma. It's a particularly nasty and rapid growing skin cancer that has a habit of spreading elsewhere if you don't deal with it. Since it's been surgically evicted 4 times and came back, this time the surgeon suggested frying it instead.

Parking at the hospital is tricky and expensive. On the second day of treatment, two of the patients in the radiation centre told us about the designated parking area for outpatient oncology, and about a monthly parking pass which worked out much cheaper than paying by the day. My mom can't walk very far, and since the radiation has progressed, some days she's holding on to my arm for dear life. Having a designated area and the parking pass took one less stress away on what has been a tough grind. We have 6 appointments to go, and I still have to convince her 3 days out of 5 to tough it out and finish.

Everything went along smoothly until last Thursday. We were running a bit late and arrived in the designated parking area, only to encounter a security guard who was issuing tickets right, left and centre. I pulled out mom's schedule to show that she had daily radiation, only to be informed that I needed a permit to park in the area, and if I remained, he would ticket me $25. It was the first I'd heard of a permit. All of the spots in the area were designated for outpatient renal and oncology patients. Most of the spots required permits, but not all of them did, and I was always careful to park in ones that were not permit designated. When I told him if I moved my car, my mother would be late, he pointed out that it wasn't his problem we were running late, but I couldn't stay there. I asked him where to get one of these permits, because it was the first I'd heard of it, and he told me to go wherever she was having treatment, but "he didn't work in that area and it wasn't his problem." I sent mom ahead, praying she got there without tripping (she almost did.) and moved my car.

I asked at one desk and was told I needed to go to a different desk. I asked at THAT desk and was told to go back to the first desk. I asked about the parking permit and was told that the permits were only for patients who drove themselves, so my mother wouldn't qualify. I could either "drop her at the door" or she would have to walk from wherever in the parking lot. When I questioned the policy, and I'll state for the record that I was a tad irate and angry at this point, the person I was talking to refused to talk to me any further, and another person helpfully waved a piece of paper with the policy on it under my nose. I was so angry I was incoherent and shaking, my mom was stressed, and so we left.

I then fired off a complaint letter. When it wasn't answered, I contacted someone that I had dealt with when I wrote a story about the centre for the now dead OpenFile Waterloo Region. Five minutes after I contacted THAT person,I got a phone call, followed by another phone call. After I outlined what had happened, including the lack of communication and the disconnects, I received the permit, which is all I was trying to get in the first place. Turns out, the policy had been misinterpreted somewhere down the line.

Policies and rules are in place for a reason. However, there are larger rules that trump any piece of paper, and those are "do unto others..." and "use common sense."  Common sense seems to be sorely lacking these days. I remember having conversations with a lifelong friend of mine when she was going through the Customs College at Rigaud, QC, on her way to be a border guard. I told her that there was no substitute for common sense on the line. For example, back when I worked at Passenger Ops at Toronto's Pearson Airport, we would often have a flight from Florida arrive around the same time as a flight from a drug-source country. According to the letter of the law, anyone who had bought more than they were supposed to were legally required to pay duties and taxes. So you could tie up the customs hall charging people $20-$30 extra dollars because they bought the bag of oranges and the mouse ears, or you could concentrate your efforts on the high risk flight.It's all about choices, and sometimes common sense trumps legislation.

"Not my job" and "not my department" seems to be common responses these days, and nothing can escalate a situation faster than being shuffled around from place to place. While it may be true that the situation is not in the job description, taking a couple of minutes to help out another human being is in our life job description. How different would life be if we didn't need a "random act of kindness" day because we were all just looking out for each other. 

Hopefully, my battle with bureacracy will help some other cancer patient or family member down the line. We're all in this life together.

No comments: