Healthcare horror: Abbotsford senior gets hospital bed after nearly a week in the hall

It’s been more than 30 days since Diana Brown’s mother was first admitted to the hospital and now, she and her family are warning others to advocate for help when facing B.C.’s beleaguered healthcare system.

“I knew our system was stretched. I knew there’s issues, but I am shocked by just how bad it is.”

Brown says in mid-October, the 85-year-old was rushed to Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH) with an infection, adding she was eventually transferred to an in-patient facility at the hospital in Maple Ridge, but after being told she was too ill to be there, she was taken back to Abbotsford.

Brown says the staff at ARH were not prepared for the second transfer and unsure of why she was transferred at all.

The second time around in Abbotsford, Brown says her mother was left in the hall for five days.

“The updates, when I asked, ‘When is she going to get in a room?’ Then I got the, ‘Oh, it’s actually a good thing she’s in the hallway because that means she was assessed as not needing as much care as the people in a room.’ It’s just chaos.”

Brown says her mother’s sheets were dirty and her food wasn’t always placed near her. “A tray was put in front of her to eat, sometimes not even within her reach. They move it because she’s in the hallway, they move it out of the way. They don’t make sure it’s moved back.”

Brown adds she filed a formal complaint earlier this week and soon after her mother was moved into a room. “If you make enough noise apparently then all of a sudden, they will magically do what should be done.”

She explains when she initially pressed for answers, the staff reportedly asked her if a social worker could handle the case. “I got a call from a social worker to calm me. And I need to be clear, I made sure I kept myself with this professional demeanor, I just didn’t back down.”

Overwhelmed healthcare system

Brown says one thing that has stood out to her through all this is the lack of answers. After weeks of tests and no official diagnosis, Brown admits she’s not sure if her mother will ever recover or if the next step is to ensure she’s comfortable.

“She’s fighting. She wants to get out of bed. She wants to get back home. The will is there. She’s very coherent. She’s completely sharp, but honestly, no idea at this point. On many occasions, I have asked for a call, but I don’t get one.

“Unless you can park yourself in the hospital with your loved one for the whole day, you have a random chance of speaking to the doctor and it seems a random chance of them looking in the file and giving you a callback. It’s really hard to get updates.”

Brown isn’t sure what happens to people, especially seniors, who don’t have someone advocating for their care.

“I don’t even know what people do when they don’t have family or somebody to come and make sure that something’s happening. I have no idea how they survive, or they probably don’t. I am exhausted. It shouldn’t be this hard.

“I feel I’m alone in this fight for taking care of her and that for everybody else she’s just a chart. I’m trying to just stay strong. I have to because if someone doesn’t have to keep for her, then nothing happens.”

Brown says the ward her mother is in sees physicians rotate week after week, so after more than a month in the hospital, she’s been seen by five different doctors.

She understands staff working on the frontlines are tapped out, but says she faced numerous excuses when trying to get her mother looked after. “They pushed. Used guilt, used everything. They use everything to justify what’s happening and I repeatedly had to say, ‘I don’t accept your answer.'”

How to improve things?

The cracks in the healthcare system in B.C. and right across the country became apparent during the height of the pandemic. Since then, multiple healthcare stories have surfaced, this being the latest one.

Brown says a big problem is, what she feels, is a lack of ownership for patient outcomes. “To me, when somebody comes in a critical situation, I don’t think it’s a big ask that in our world, that one doctor gets assigned to oversee. Make sure there’s progress. There’s no accountability. There’s no responsibility.”

She isn’t sure how to fix a broken healthcare system but feels more responsibility from the doctors and nurses to the hospitalists, to the health authority. “There needs to be proper ownership and oversight. You could never run a company that way. The company would go bankrupt.”

The family is encouraging anyone who has a family member in the healthcare system to continue fighting for better care.

“Do not back down. The system is really set up to say, ‘No,’ to you first.”

The Fraser Health Authority (FHA) tells CityNews its focus is on the health and well-being of patients.

“We are concerned to hear that a patient’s family is not satisfied with the care being provided at one of our hospitals. We are working directly with the patient and their family to address their concerns,” FHA said.

“While we cannot speak to the specifics of this case, generally speaking, we will only place a patient in an overflow space when they are more mobile and are expected to have a shorter length of stay in the hospital. Patients who need a higher level of care are cared for in areas where we can support them as well as their families, such as private or semi-private rooms.”

If you would like to share your healthcare experience with us, please reach out to Sonia Aslam.

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