After 85-year-old Vancouver resident Joyce Robinson fell at 2 a.m. Thursday, breaking her nose, fracturing an orbital bone and tearing an eye canal, she was rushed to the ER.
It was not unusual for her to visit the emergency room at Vancouver General Hospital. According to her daughter, she has fallen many times in recent years due to her age and after having a minor stroke.
But it was unusual not to be admitted overnight for observation.
Her daughter Sandra Robinson, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, was shocked that her mother was released from the hospital in just a gown after staff threw away her clothes because they were covered in blood and analgesics. the unbearable fractured orbital bone.
She said her mother is usually monitored overnight in the hospital due to her age and medical history. They usually need to run tests to find out why she fell. But this time she was sent home, even though these injuries were the worst she had sustained from a fall thus far.
Robinson wants to know if the threshold for admitting an older adult overnight has changed due to the current shortage of health care staff.
“My mom has been through the ER many, many times. They usually keep it for several days to evaluate it. This is truly the first” she said.
“Something is falling apart. I don’t blame the staff. I think they are trying to deal with a system that is being crushed.”
In a written response, Vancouver Coastal Health said it has “the capacity and required level of clinical and support staff” to provide care for all patients.
“Vancouver Coastal Health is not discharging patients due to lack of beds; patients are only discharged on the advice of a physician and provided with a discharge plan,” the statement said.
Before Joyce Robinson, who lives in her own apartment in a small assisted-living complex in Vancouver, could be released, she needed to have her eye stitched up by a senior ophthalmologist. However, her daughter said the eye center was in another building three blocks away.
“But she had no clothes, no shoes. And they asked us to accompany her there,” Robinson said. Her brother finally got the hospital staff to bring her in a wheelchair. According to Robinson, her mother was told not to scratch her face and she was released in her hospital gown.
It wasn’t until the family took her home that they realized she hadn’t been given any pain medication and only a prescription for an antibiotic.
“I know there is no room and I know there are other people in terrible situations in the hospital. But it’s so sad” she said.
“We see a lot of evidence that the healthcare system has been under pressure for a long time. And I think it’s reached a tipping point. It has to be if they’re no longer admitting and monitoring older adults after they just say, ‘Hey, you can go home. Why has it changed?”
Prime Minister John Horgan has said BC’s health system is “reeling” due to staff shortages that have led to the closure of at least three emergency rooms.
Horgan has repeatedly pointed to increased federal funding as the key to shoring up health care. The provinces and territories have asked Ottawa to increase its share of health care funding from 22% to 35%, which would mean an increase of $3.9 billion per year for British Columbia.
Last month, reporters Lori Culbert and Dan Fumano wrote a story about how a woman died at Lions Gate Hospital after spending two days locked in a waiting room, a tragic a sign of the growing staffing shortage in BC’s overcrowded emergency rooms.
— with a file from Katie De Rosa
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