Injury in hospital a mystery

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Barb Sweet
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Senior’s eye blackened while on Waterford ward

When Donna McMullin saw her mother’s black eye, she was shocked, and still has no idea how the elderly woman got the injury while in hospital.

An elderly St. John’s woman received a black eye while she was a patient at the Waterford. Her family doesn’t know how the injury happened. — Submitted photo

“I was really worried someone had done this to her,” McMullin said of her mother, who isn’t being named out of respect for patient privacy.

“It is very concerning to me because nobody saw what happened at all.”

The woman was expected to be transferred to a Level 3 long-term nursing home bed on Bell Island after several weeks in the Waterford Hospital in order to get her out of her current situation until a nursing home bed opens up in St. John’s.

McMullin said her mother is frail and has cognitive difficulties and was at a personal-care home when her needs changed. She was sent to the Waterford for an assessment of her geriatric-care requirements.

There was no problem on the unit she spent roughly a month on, but then she was transferred around the end of April to a transitional unit to await a nursing home bed.

“They told me it could be a six-month wait for a bed in St. John’s,” said McMullin.

She got a phone call earlier this month saying that her mom had “a little mark” on her eye but was OK.

“I didn’t think too much of it,” McMullin said.

“I went in a day or two later and I was shocked — she had a full black-and-blue eye. She looked like someone had punched her in the face.”

McMullin’s concern is that her mom, who uses a wheelchair, is now on a unit with patients of mixed ages and would not be able to defend herself against an aggressive younger patient, if that’s what happened.

No one knows what did occur. McMullin spoke to hospital administration and one suggestion was that her mother had somehow injured herself. But McMullin said that’s never happened before.

“She couldn’t tell me what happened,” McMullin said.

She said vulnerable geriatric patients should always be in a separate unit, for safety reasons.

St. John’s Centre NDP MHA Gerry Rogers advocated on the woman’s behalf and agrees the unit should be solely a geriatric transitional unit, as she was told it was in the past.

“I think it just points to the problems we have right now in terms of seniors,” Rogers said Tuesday, adding the level of care from staff is not being questioned by the family — who praised their compassion —but the mix of patients is the problem.

Rogers said she asked the hospital adminstration if McMullin’s mother could be transferred back to the unit she was assessed on and was told it is at capacity.

She said the problem is that seniors shouldn’t be in hospital because of a lack of long-term care beds or, in other cases, a lack of a comprehensive provincial home care program.

Rogers said seniors waiting in hospital because they need nursing home beds can pick up diseases and germs in an active acute care hospital setting and there can be safety issues such as McMullin’s mother’s injury.

“This is no surprise. It’s not like all of a sudden there is a crisis that fell out of the sky,” Rogers said of the increasing population of seniors.

“It is absolutely unforgivable this government and the government before them have not planned and used all the potential tools available to make sure we didn’t come to this crisis. … It’s absolutely shocking we are at this stage. In a time of prosperity, we should be able to do better than this.”

Rogers called for an all-party standing committee to examine seniors’ care in the province, including long-term care waits, home care and housing.

Eastern Health doesn’t discuss specific cases, due to privacy rules.

The health authority said there is an acute care geriatric assessment unit at the Waterford and one of two residential geriatric units has 10 transitional beds reserved for seniors awaiting a long-term care home bed or residential community care.

While the units are mostly for seniors, a spokeswoman said there are times when patients under age 65 are placed on the unit while waiting for other services.

The spokeswoman said when a patient is injured, an occurrence report is completed, the next of kin notified and a doctor called in for an exam.

While all hospital patients are checked on frequently, in the case of aggressive patients, the level of surveillance may be adjusted if needed, the health authority said.

There are currently 145 people approved and waiting on nursing home beds in the eastern region and their wait time will vary.

Some 101 others are in a long-term care home and waiting for a bed in the facility of their choice.

Organizations: Waterford Hospital

Geographic location: Bell Island

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Recent comments

  • Dominic House
    May 29, 2014 - 20:49

    I wouldn't get too excited about that. My guess is that she bumped her forehead. My elderly mother once bumped her forehead and ended up with TWO whopping shiners. She joked about it saying she fought Joe Louis and won.

  • Donna
    May 28, 2014 - 17:24

    Mom has not been using a walker since entering the hospital and is in a wheelchair. She and has fallen from her chair during her stay but she is for the most part immobile when it comes to trying get up. The staff have to pick her up to her her back in the chair. In this case it was not a fall as nobody witnessed itMom has not been using a walker since entering the hospital and is in a wheelchair. She and has fallen from her chair during her stay but she is for the most part immobile when it comes to trying get up. The staff have to pick her up to her her back in the chair. In this case it was not a fall as nobody witnessed it. It's not clear how it happened but even if it was accidental in nature, the real issue lies within how the province is handling the care of the vulnerable elderly within the Waterford Hospital. Accidents do happen in hospitals, it's not clear how this happened but even if it was accidental in nature, the real issue lies within how the province is handling the care of the vulnerable elderly within the Waterford Hospital.

  • Simone
    May 28, 2014 - 15:02

    I worked in health care years back at a city hospital and a woman using her walker tripped and fell, resulting in a bloody nose & two black eyes. She was in hospital also awaiting transfer to a facility to accommodate her increased needs as a senior with medical issues.

  • unknown
    May 28, 2014 - 14:09

    This is not the first time someone at the waterford got beat up .They only check patients who are out on day patrol for smokes and lighters.I know of a case where a man got hit with a rock in the face.The nurse told a family member that they only check for smokes and lighters when the patients comes back from there days out.Something has to be done u put them in hospital cause they are sick, Not to get beaten up.My heart goes out to this lady and her family.Donna u did the right thing in going public with this so much of it is hidden and no one knows about it.God bless.

  • Trudy
    May 28, 2014 - 13:40

    www.easternhell.com

  • Tina C
    May 28, 2014 - 09:51

    I agree with Krista. Sometimes the slightest bump will create large bruising on the elderly, especially if they may be on a blood thinner. These bruises can be very upsetting to family members though they arent necessarily due to violent trauma. As for separating the geriatric patients, I can tell you from experience as a retired nurse that in the locked wards in LTC there are also a mix of young and old. Alzheimers affects people in their 40s and 50s and though their cognition is affected, their bodies remain strong for a time. This is a dangerous prospect when you mix cognitively impaired persons, some of whom cannot protect themselves. Staff cannot be evwrywhere at all times. I am glad the family appreciates that the staff are sensitive to the patients needa because tthis is an issue government needs to address.

  • Krista
    May 28, 2014 - 06:12

    I work in long term care. I have seen many bruises on the elderly that occur from minor incidents such as tapping their hand off the bed rails or even their eye glasses rubbing under their eye in a gentle area. I hope this lady gets to the bottom of her mothers bruising, but with patients with cognitive issues - sometimes this happens (self inflicted) with very little force or stress. I am in total agreement with a separate unit for seniors transitioning to nursing homes. It can be traumatic for both the patient and family and I don't agee with placing these people on units with young adults with mental illness.