What on earth is that? you’ll ask (unless of course you live in Vienna lol).

Luftaufnahme SMZO 1998_1922

SMZO link to video about this medical institution in German language in Vienna, Austria

SMZO  is a network of medical institutions administering hospitals and medical educational institutions. Having had my share of hospital visits during my life, what with tonsils out, a car accident in the eighth month of pregnancy, five children, an emergency appendectomy, a year in practice at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and some time in the Swiss medical system, I was quite impressed by what I experienced in the Donau Spital in Vienna.

Have times changed or is this hospital different?

Well, if you take a look at the link and video, and understand German, you’ll see that the team has made a special effort to appreciate the migrant workers and their contribution.

Is that what it was?

I made myself a list of postive points that I experienced when I was there. This is what I have:

Peaceful nights sleep without interruptions. I remember every time I was in hospital before, with my children the clattering noise in the corridors and constant interruptions made it impossible to sleep.

Closed door at night. No noise from the corridor. Same effect. We could really sleep peacefully and often even closed the door during the day. I do not remember ever doing this at any other hospital!

First night out in the corridor to avoid disturbing other patients. I was put on an automatic blood pressure monitor which pumped up every hour and fed the information into a computer.

Privacy curtain around the bed in the corridor. Even though I was an “alley” patient, I felt the respect of some sort of limited privacy.

Winter garden. This was an area which probably normally would pass for a glass house but the hospital regulations prohibit potted plants so there wasn’t  a real green house feeling. There were enough windows though. This area became a popular meeting point to chat and share and read the newspapers.

Fruit on the table. It wasn’t until a couple days later that I discovered there was actually fruit provided and available on the table in the dining area. This was pleasantly labelled the “winter garden” or green house where we were invited to come and have breakfast every morning if we were mobile.

Coffee self service. After breakfast the large urn of coffee was kept in the dining area for self-service until it was empty.

Refrigerator in the room. Patients’ own fridge made it feel more like a holiday than a hospital visit.

However, the Donau Spital is more. There is an extensive exhibition in the entrance area to the hospital which I took about an hour to read through and photograph. Then I went to the information desk and asked if it was also available as a leaflet or on the internet. Even though one of the attendants assured me that some of it was available on the internet, I did not find it and what is there, is not in English.

This led me to meditate on the whole issue of the Austrian medical system.

Shall we start considering the negatives? I did not appreciate the TV – smoking room. Austria must be one of the few countries in the world that still defends the rights of smokers to pollute not only their own lungs, but public space in public places. I probably had to inhale more smoke during my stay in hospital than I normally do as a non-smoker who avoids smokers’ places. Unfortunately for me, (and all others -including my room colleague who became a non smoker during her hospital stay!) the TV-smoking room was on the corridor leading to our room and there was no way around it. The smoke seeped out into the corridor and I even had to breathe it during my physiotherapy session.