We give ice water to patients, of course, and we also use it to keep certain specimens cool while they go to the lab. It’s used for lumps, bumps, and bruises, and sometimes for cooling protocols. Busy staff often grab big foam cups of ice water just to keep going. In short, the machine that sits on the counter in our pantry gets a workout 24/7. After twenty years of continuous use, our original ice maker started to show its age and had to be repaired more often than it worked. Several months back, it was finally replaced by a shiny, new, dependable model.
A couple of days ago, I came back from lunch, grabbed a big cup of ice water, and went to work. About forty-five minutes later a new nurse from the float pool (i.e. she’s not overly-familiar with our department) asked me where the ice machine was.
“In the pantry,” I said, motioning in the general direction.
Then it occurred to me that she might have peeked into the wrong nook or cranny (the pantry’s not very big), so I crooked my finger. “Come with me,” I told her.
We turned the corner and I swept my hand toward the counter where our ice machine stands, but I stopped mid-sweep. There was the counter, alright, but the machine was nowhere to be seen!
I made a quick call to the Facilities Department.
“Where’s our ice machine?” I cried.
“Well …” the secretary was a little hesitant. “I’m not exactly sure, but I know Recovery’s ice maker broke and they need ice urgently. I’ll bet the someone came to get yours to use until theirs is fixed.”
Seriously? After it’s been unplugged and the water line disconnected, it would take two strong men to move the darn thing. And besides, we need ours urgently too. Whose “urgent” trumps whose? I’d vote in favour of the department who actually owns the functioning piece of equipment.
I mentioned it to our manager and we had a brief laugh about sneaking over to Recovery to, um, recover our ice machine. Then we both got busy and neither of us followed up on things.
An hour later, she asked me about it. We took a peek and the counter was still empty. Being the take-action leader that she is, she went straight to the top and called the Facilities Director to ask what was going on.
Turns out our department hadn’t been pillaged — at least not in favour of Recovery. The Ice Machine Fixer People had been so used to repairing our old jalopy that when they got the maintenance call from Recovery, they came directly to the ER instead, picked up the fully functioning machine, and took off with it. Didn’t ask. Didn’t tell anyone. Just snatched it and ran.
The next day the ice machine was back in its usual place, pretty as you please, but guess what? It stopped working. Fortunately it was an easy fix, but I suspect it might have been a little easier on the machine if it had never left the department in the first place.
Around the ER, we’re pretty good at diagnosing and fixing things whenever possible, but we usually wait for something to break before we try to get it working again. I wish the Ice Machine Fixer Guys operated the same way.