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