Wife says hus­band sent home bloody from visit to St. Joe’s ER; MPP de­cries treatment

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - CARMELA FRAGOMENI

A liver trans­plant can­di­date whose wife says was sent home from the emer­gency room still bloody, dis­ori­ented and with­out treatment is an ex­am­ple of the prov­ince’s fail­ing grade on pa­tient care, says Moun­tain MPP Monique Tay­lor.

Tay­lor brought up Steven Burke’s night­mar­ish ex­pe­ri­ence at St. Joseph’s Hos­pi­tal last week in the On­tario leg­is­la­ture as an ex­am­ple of how fund­ing cuts are hurt­ing pa­tients.

“Why doesn’t the premier see the dam­age she’s done to pa­tient care?”

An in­jured and ail­ing Burke waited eight-and-a-half hours in the emer­gency room only to be dis­charged with­out re­ceiv­ing aid, his wife, Deb­bie, says.

St. Joe’s ER nurse man­ager Tara Cof­fin-Simp­son said staff do their best to treat ev­ery pa­tient that comes in. She did not ad­dress Burke’s case specif­i­cally.

In Jan­uary, Burke fell in the hos­pi­tal park­ing lot on his way to his reg­u­lar bi-weekly ap­point­ment at a St. Joe’s clinic to drain the fluid buildup in his ab­domen — the re­sult of his fail­ing liver.

Deb­bie was park­ing the van and didn’t see him fall, cut his chin and lose con­scious­ness.

But passersby called an am­bu­lance to take him around the cor­ner to the ER around 11 a.m.

By the time she got there, her hus­band was slumped over in an un- com­fort­able chair, Deb­bie said.

“He’s bleed­ing, so he’s drip­ping all over. I tried talk­ing to him.

“He was very lethar­gic and not re­spon­sive.”

The in­abil­ity to stretch out on a bed made his breath­ing “very wheezy” be­cause of the fluid buildup push­ing on his lungs, she added. “He’s like a big wa­ter piñata.”

It wasn’t un­til nearly 7 p.m. that Burke got a bed, and not un­til 8 p.m. when blood work was done, Deb­bie said.

At one point, the clinic liver team came to drain the fluid, in a pro­ce­dure called “a tap” but was not al­lowed be­cause of ER pro­to­col, Deb­bie said.

“By this time, he had de­clined so badly that I was fright­ened. He was in very bad shape. He was very grey,” she said.

“There had been no chin cleanup. He had a gash and there was dirt in it.”

Her hus­band was then sud­denly dis­charged from the rapid as­sess­ment area, she said.

Cof­fin-Simp­son said there’s no “tap” pro­to­col, but noted whether fluid can be drained i n the ER would de­pend on other fac­tors, such as how un­com­fort­able a pa­tient al­ready is.

On wait times, she said “seven to eight hours is within the guide­lines for those not be­ing ad­mit­ted (to hos­pi­tal).”

Tay­lor is not sur­prised by Burke’s or­deal.

“We hear con­stant sto­ries in the of­fice from peo­ple who feel let down by the health-care sys­tem, from ER wait times, to the time to get to surgery,” said the New Demo­crat MPP. “I think it’s very dis­turb­ing.” Fund­ing falls more than $300 mil­lion short of what hos­pi­tals need and frozen bud­gets in the past four years have led to “hun­dreds of lay­offs and deep cuts at Hamil­ton hos­pi­tals,” Tay­lor said.

Since Jan­uary 2016, 1,600 nurses have been cut provincewide, she added.

Health Min­istry spokesper­son David Jensen said op­er­at­ing fund­ing is up more than 58 per cent since 2003 to $18 bil­lion and in­cludes ini­tia­tives to re­duce ER wait times.

The cuts irk Deb­bie Burke too. She’s seen them first-hand with her hus­band’s care.

“The nurses are run­ning around. They’re over­whelmed.

“The doc­tors too — they’re just see­ing so many pa­tients — and the nu­tri­tion (from hos­pi­tal meals) is hor­rid,” she said. “When CEOs are mak­ing (close to) a mil­lion dol­lars and the pa­tient care is suf­fer­ing, there’s a prob­lem.”

The gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to a strong hos­pi­tal sys­tem “that de­liv­ers qual­ity pa­tient ser­vices,” Jensen added.


Deb­bie Burke says hus­band was sent home from ER, in­jured and with fluid in his ab­domen af­ter a fall on the way to a hos­pi­tal clinic for liver treatment.

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