Sunday, January 04, 2015

Slow Tim Hortons with a Side of Quality Poop

Earlier this week saw our family of three at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario's (CHEO) Emergency Room.  Before erupting in hysterics, of why were at the hospital instead of elsewhere in the healthcare system, let's back up a bit.

This week was a little quizzical for us in terms of health care.  Our daughter over the past weekend was having issues with bowel movements, or in baby terms, "poop".  Monday she finally erupted and filled two consecutive diapers within five minutes of loose pooh. We thought this was a little odd and felt it may be a sign of diarrhea.  As first time parents we wanted someone who knew to double check our daughter's systems were working correctly.

I called the doctor's office to see if they had room to take us in that day or whether we were better to head to the walk-in clinic associated with the doctor.  The walk in clinic was the best option according to the receptionist who took our call as our doctor was not in the office.

We trekked to the walk in clinic in the same building as our doctor to find a posted "3 hour wait" and that our doctor was on duty gradually working her way through the que in the overflowing waiting room.  Turns out that all the doctors had chosen, in the middle of peak flu and cold season, to take vacation time and all the doctors offices associated with our doctor's health care team were also closed.  Our obstetrician's office was also closed. So much for trying to find the nice nurse there, who also works at the Ottawa Hospital's maternity ward and also seen plenty of funky diapers, to provide an opinion.

Instead of waiting three hours in a cave of open hostile germs, better known as an overflowing waiting room, we decided to head elsewhere. The only two options were the Ottawa General Hospital, where our daughter arrived in to this world, or CHEO.  Previously we were told if anything was majorly wrong with our daughter, to head to CHEO, so we did to see what our chances were.

As well, we were reasoning that if we waited the 3 hours at the walk in clinic and our daughter survived the waiting room to be only found dehydrated we would be referred to CHEO anyway for follow up treatment only to have to wait again in the emergency department of CHEO.  So we felt it was better to head there and try our luck.

At the Emergency room the triage process took about 15 minutes to wade through and a nurse took a look. She was pretty sure we were o.k. but because we were at triage, a doctor would need to confirm before we could leave.  We were admitted and sat in our own emergency room.  The whole visit took about 4 hours.

The Pediatrician (Doctor who specializes in children) reviewed our daughter's vital signs and went over with us what the average poop looks like. Turns out our daughter was normal and merely passing a large amount of poop that she had saved up from the previous couple of days.  As her digestive system matures these off again on again poop sessions would be fine. We were discharged tired but satisfied.

The Review

While waiting to see the doctor at CHEO, the need for sustenance came up.  Normally hospital cafeteria food, never mind in hospital room food, is normally not overly great.  But the nearby Ottawa Hospital General Campus has a few tasty options including a Second Cup and Tim Hortons (501 Smyth Road, Ottawa).  A sandwich and drink seemed appetizing, so we decided to return to the Tim Hortons we had enjoyed during our stay while our daughter was born.

With my wife at CHEO, I ventured through the parking lots of both CHEO and the Ottawa Hospital General Campus to the Tim Hortons.  I was in luck as it was pretty quiet with only two customers being attended to by two cashiers and one sandwich maker.

In past visits, this Tim Hortons has required patience, especially during the day when the hospital staff is starting, on break or ending their day causing lengthy lines.  Usually the staff opens four cash registers and keeps things moving if you have a drink and a donut.  But add in a sandwich, soup or chili and things take a while due to volume and the ordering system.  The ordering system means if a customer's sandwich is rung in at the cash register and appears at the preparation counter that is located in behind the registers to be made.  After being prepared the employee must transport it to the nearby pick up area closest to the cash where it was ordered.  This means transportation time for each order from prep area to cash must be included in the wait time for not only your order but each order ahead of you.  Normally if there are not too many customers, this isn't an issue. But a high volume location like this Tim Hortons, and the wait takes a while.   In other cases, this set up really isn't the issue, like my latest visit.

With two customers, two cashiers and one sandwich maker working away, I thought this would be a quick and easy visit to grab dinner and head back to CHEO's emergency room to eat.  Sadly I was wrong.

The first customer was trying to figure out what she wanted as she ordered.  The second customer at the other cash register was asking if certain items were in stock or not one at a time while the employee checked and returned, checked and returned, checked and returned...  I rolled my eyes at how I ended up in this predicament with only one solution, "somebody order something!"  Eventually customer number two ordered and I was next up to the cash register:

The Order: 2 Chicken Salad Sandwich combos with kettle chips, 1 medium coffee and 1 orange juice.

The order seemed simple enough, the cashier would easily get the drinks and the sandwich bar would easily make the sandwiches and load up the chips which are usually premade.

First order out was a chicken salad sandwich with some kind of bagel.  Turns out the first customer finally figured out what she wanted and, because she had started ordering.  No problem, with no one else but my order, things should move along pretty quickly.

Not so fast, I watch as the sandwich maker gets out one sandwich bun, cuts it, lettuce, tomato and then the premade chicken sandwich filling.  It was like watching everything in slow motion.  There was no urgency or professional level of speed there, just the slow movement forward.  Wash rinse and repeat for the second sandwich.  She then brought over both sandwiches in a paper bag with a smile on her face saying "2 Chicken Salad Sandwiches" and a smile on her face like she had just finished the most ardous task of all.

Except, two notable things that I know were typed into the system by the cashier...

"Where are the two potato chips that come with the combos I ordered?"

A disgusted look and slow return to the sandwich counter ensued where I was treated to a slow motion potato chip into bag demonstration. Followed by a waddle back to the cash and ceremonious dump of said potato chips into the bag with the awaiting sandwiches.

I took the bag and started the long return back the CHEO after what seemed was going to be less than five minute grab of food turned into a ten to fifteen minute ordeal.

To be fair, this seemed to be a one off.  Most of the staff at this location are courteous and quick on their feet to move the line along of waiting patients, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.  But the sandwich bar set up needs to be changed so that perhaps when sandwiches are finished, it could be picked up in a single spot perhaps long the front area that abuts the hospital hallway.  But that is for a future renovation.

The food taste wise was a little suspect.  Sure the chips and drinks were fine and to Tim Hortons' corporate standards, but the chicken sandwich was bland.  Not enough mayonaise or whatever sauce they use?  It was quite different from what I had previously experienced at both this particular location and other times at the Tim Hortons on nearby Alta Vista.

Overall, I'll chalk this poor experience up to single occurrence.  But concerns over wait times for prepared food from the sandwich bar is an issue. So if you are going for a soup, sandwich or even chili, be prepared for a wait.  Coffee, tea or other beverage?  This Tim Hortons does its best to get your favourite into your hand as fast as possible.

As for our daughter?  She's doing well so far in the poop department even after this incident. We are also happy that our regular doctor's office will be open after the holidays to take care of any questions we may have.  But the lasting question we have is why are many doctor's offices closed during Christmas break week which traditionally is the height of flu season in Ontario?  This I'll never know.

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