Prince Rupert couple recount ‘health care horror show’ amid ER closures

A Prince Rupert couple has been left harrowed after what they’re calling a “health care horror show” worsened by emergency department closures.

Tish Losier says she and her partner, Joe, were forced to wait for care outside an emergency room in Prince Rupert while it was closed overnight.

Losier tells CityNews she had to bring Joe into the ER a total of three times on Monday, after he began to experience grand mal seizures that morning.

When paramedics arrived, they informed her that the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital Emergency Department was closed and offered to take Joe to Terrace — a 90 minute drive away.

Plagued by ongoing closures, this was the fourth time it was shuttered in as many days from 3 p.m. until 8 a.m. due to a physician shortage.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that our communities need help. Other communities need help. People’s lives are on the line,” said Losier.

“This could have ended differently. I’m grateful I still have him around.”

Tish Losier says she and her partner, Joe, were forced to wait for care outside an emergency room in Prince Rupert while it was closed overnight.
Tish Losier says she and her partner, Joe, were forced to wait for care outside an emergency room in Prince Rupert while it was closed overnight. (Photo courtesy of Tish Losier)

Losier initially agreed to go to Terrace, but by the time Joe stabilized, it was close to 7 a.m. and they decided it would be quicker to wait for the Prince Rupert ER to reopen.

“Of course I wanted him to be seen as soon as possible, so I agreed to stay in Prince Rupert,” said Losier.

“They drove him outside the hospital in an ambulance. We waited outside for over an hour for care. He had more seizures in the ambulance. It was absolutely terrifying.”

Once they saw a doctor, Losier says Joe was discharged because there were not enough beds to admit him.

She says Joe has been admitted for observation in the past, and was surprised that wasn’t the case this time.

“The nurse told me they just don’t have the beds and they just don’t have the staff,” said Losier.

“By the time we left on Monday morning, the waiting room was full. It was like they had never closed.”

Losier says Joe had another seizure when he got home, causing him to fall and hit his head on the concrete.

“When I called 9-1-1 that time they said there were no ambulances available,” said Losier. “I ended up screaming for help. Some neighbors came and got him into the car and we got him to the hospital. It was horrific.”

“He ended up getting 15 staples in his head, it was clear down to his skull. I could see his skull when we were trying to control the bleeding,” she added.

After this, Losier says Joe was released from the hospital a second time, leading to a third ER visit that involved him vomiting blood.

Jennifer Rice, North Coast MLA, issued a statement Wednesday, saying her family of four is losing their family doctor and she can “personally relate” to concerns coming from patients in the region.

“This is a scary situation for all of us living in not just Prince Rupert, but other North Coast communities who rely on Prince Rupert Regional Hospital and Prince Rupert family doctors for primary care,” Rice said.

She says “every effort” is being made to fill the vacant physician positions that are causing the ER closures, and people’s concerns are not going unnoticed.

“I realize this is cold comfort for those who have needed an ER recently and it was closed. My heart has broken this week with the experiences people have shared,” she said.

“This health human resource challenge is not new or unique to just Prince Rupert. We are not only facing a health human resource crisis locally and provincially but nationally and globally.”

Rice went on to say her government is working to find a solution and more information to patients’ questions will be coming soon.

In a scrum on Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said he can’t comment on specific cases due to concerns about patient privacy, but added patients are encouraged to call the patient care quality complaint centre.

“Obviously, whenever there is a concern in the health-care system, I see and look for a detailed response. What happened? Did we do everything we could? What can we do better? That would be the case in this case and in every case,” said Dix.

“With respect to Prince Rupert, with respect to Terrace, with respect to Kitimat, the region, we have seen an increase in doctors and nurses. But we’ve clearly got to do more and that’s why we’ve changed the patient model, the funding model for family physicians. That’s principally what we have in Prince Rupert (…) So we’ve changed our model there and it’s been very successful.”

Dix says officials are heading to the region next week to discuss challenges and what more needs to be done.

Back in Prince Rupert, Losier emphasizes that it’s not just her community that needs help right now — it’s the entire province.

“There’s a very real possibility that no one would have heard my cries for help and I could have lost him,” Losier said.

She says she’s filing a patient care complaint about the experience, and she and her partner are equally shaken, fearing the worst case scenario will happen if the problem isn’t addressed.

The Prince Rupert ER is closed again Wednesday evening.

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