Saturday, August 11, 2007

Healthcare Blogger --- Not

You may notice that I have put up a new display in my sidebar. I'm sure you all know that I spend a lot of time reading medblogs, due to my fascination, academic I assure you, with medical care and because I miss all that since my retirement from hospital pharmacy, almost nine years ago.

It was pointed out to me that even though I do not have a healthcare blog myself, this code of ethics applies to blogging in general. So you now see this emblem proudly displayed to the right. Click on it and you will be taken to its home site when you will find general thoughts on the subject and a new feature, the highlighting of different medbloggers.

However, to justify its inclusion, I'm going to narrate a little story from my days in hospital pharmacy which I hope will amuse you.

In August of 1980, the acute care pavilion of the hospital at the University of British Columbia finally opened. The psychiatric and extended care pavilions had been opened some years earlier with separate small pharmacies, but with the acute care a new large centralized pharmacy opened and I began working there.

Everything was very new and one of our great pieces of equipment was a digital electronic weighing scale or balance which was unbelievably accurate and had a tare feature. This means that you put a container on the scale, hit the tare button which returned the value to zero and you added whatever it was you were weighing until the right weight was achieved. Well you young folk are wondering, what the heck? What's great about that? Weren't they always like that? Not at all. In 1980 this was very new to us and we loved it. We no longer had to fiddle about adding weights and taring the container in a tedious operation. Every time we weighed anything we raved on about how wonderful this scale was, so convenient, so easy to use, blah, blah, blah.

One night, about 6pm, the two people working the evening shift were approached by a young man telling them that he had been sent to take the scale in for service. Assuming that this had been arranged by the day staff, one of the pharmacists invited him into the secured area and belatedly she asked him for identification. Oh, he'd left it in his truck, he'd just take the balance and come right back with it. That's right, you've guessed it, never seen again. Of course that poor girl never heard the end of it, how she gave away the best piece of equipment in the whole pharmacy. The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) were called in, she had to try to give an accurate description of this person, how tall was he, etc. In fact one of the results of this was that the RCMP came back and attached a paper tape measure to the door so that we could give a more accurate estimate of height for the next time. Can you believe it?

After all the moaning and bewailing about the loss of this gem by the staff, the Director of Pharmacy spent the $2500 required to replace it, thank heaven so all was well again.

Yes the story has a twist. About 18 months later, the balance was discovered in a drug bust by the RCMP. It had been stolen for use by drug traffickers, although how anyone knew we had one, we never knew. We didn't get it back right away because it was kept as evidence, but eventually it returned to its former home in our department, so we then had two of these wonderful pieces of equipment.

Nowadays these scales are much more reasonable and I have a quite high quality one in my kitchen which cost about $75, so I guess the drug traffickers just buy one at the kitchenware store as needed.

This is probably the one and only healthcare related tale you will ever find on this blog. I hope you enjoyed it.


Moof said...

JMB, that was great! You should post stories like this one more often! You must have a lot of these ... and you're holding out on us! ;o)

I also wonder how those fellows found out about the scale ... could there have been some sort of link to someone who worked at the hospital? That makes for an uncomfortable thought ... considering that the fellows who took the scale were druggies.

Did the police ever find out?

MedStudentWife said...

I loved your blog !! :)

I remember using the counter b scales - what a pain. We picked up an electronic scale not long after I joined the hospital pharmacy & Im proud to say that the "little orange scale - tho somewhat stained" was going strong when I left.. almost 17 years later.

Your story is very much a reason why we put a combination lock on the door to the hospital pharmacy - too easy for anyone to come in the hospital off the street and figure out where we were at. It tok us tecks a couple of years and a couple of incidents to prove the worth.

And yes - more pharm tales :)

jmb said...

Hi Moof,
Well lots of the stories I've forgotten and lots I shouldn't tell because of confidentiality because most of the interesting stories were to do with patients, although so many years have passed.
We wondered how they knew about the scale. He asked for the scale specifically and seemed totally legitimate to the pharmacy people. Perhaps he could have known by seeing the purchase order, maybe he knew someone who worked in the pharmacy. We never knew and the police certainly didn't keep us in the loop.

jmb said...

They obviously were very sturdy little things. Our first one, the stolen one, was yellow, the second stainless and black. But both worked very well.
Our hospital pharmacy, in the centre of the ground floor, had only two doors and you had to be buzzed in or use a key. Of course he came to the wicket and was obligingly let in because they believed his story. How they knew we even had it was never explained.

Lee said...

My goodness! Isn't that incredible!!? For that guy to be there at that exact moment and to steal the scales! never ceases to be amazed at the brazen actions of fellow humans!

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
He certainly was very cheeky but totally convincing to the people on shift that night.

Janice Thomson said...

He probably overheard excited comments about the new scale and hence had all the knowledge he needed for the makes sense one would check out the pharmacy as it is common knowledge all things are carefully weighed. Such a good story Jmb...I really hope there will be more.

jmb said...

Hi Janice,
Who knows how he knew but he did and we were very cooperative.
Glad you enjoyed the story.

Liz said...

They put a tape measure against the door?! So you could estimate everyone's height - just in case?

That's a great story. And an expensive scales. I have an electronic one in the kitchen and it's fine until its battery runs out!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Great story, jmb. Please tell me that poor girl didn't get the sack? I can well imagine how you were all fascinated by the thing. I was wondering what moof was wondering...

jmb said...

Hi Liz,
That's right, the tape measure for future burglaries. I was there for years. I'm afraid the next burglary was an inside job for sure.
The scales were expensive then and like all technology much cheaper now.

No she did not get the sack, but we did tease her for years over that.
Although we got the scale back we did not get all the details.
regards to you both

Anonymous said...

JMB, this was an interesting read. Glad they got the scale back, but amazing how the price has dropped.

Josie said...

JMB, what a great story. Did the girl who let him in get to keep her job? Well, I guess she was duped, wasn't she? I would imagine you have a lot of interesting stories from the UBC hospital pharmacy.

I worked in the Detwiller Pavilion for a couple of years, several years ago.

jmb said...

Hi Steve,
Now these scales are very cheap although ours was a bit better than my kitchen one, but I see the scientific ones at about $120-150 now. I also think they up the price when selling things to hospitals as they know they have a big budget. Our fridges always were unbelievably expensive.

jmb said...

Hi Josie,
Yes she did keep her job, never any question of that, of course.
Most of the interesting stories I can't tell, Josie, although there is one other I'm thinking about.
I guess you worked at Detwiller after I left at the end of 1998.

Political Umpire said...

Great story. I predicted the end long before, however, as a burglary in one of the houses in the development where I lived stole one particularly flash set of kitchen scales but nothing else, and for precisely those purposes ...

jmb said...

Hi PU,
You'd think with the cost so low now and all the money the drug dealers make they could afford to buy the scales. Maybe the kitchen store was too far away for this lazy lot.