Family of transferred patient focuses on getting her back to Corner Brook

Cory Hurley
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Alice Hinks was surrounded by a large group of family as she settled into her new surroundings in the Bay St. George Long-Term Care facility in Stephenville Crossing.

Her son, Todd Hinks, said they are doing their best to make the 90-year-old Deer Lake woman feel at ease following her transfer there from Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook on Wednesday.

Despite their efforts to stop it, Alice was transferred due to a shortage of beds at Western Memorial. She was in an acute-care bed for more than a year, waiting for a long-term care placement, when the need to use the bed for emergency or surgical patients occurred.

The Hinks family is worried the move to another facility in another part of western Newfoundland will be difficult mentally on Alice. Hinks said his mother has a history of severe anxiety, claustrophobia and panic attacks. She becomes overwhelmed when strangers are in her room and receives comfort from family members who visit her daily.

The move to Stephenville Crossing will take some of that away from her.

Hinks, who travelled with her to Stephenville Crossing, said his mother was medicated for the transfer and had her large support system in place throughout the day.

“Unfortunately, that may not be the case every day,” he said.

Seeking return

He said his focus now is to get her back to Corner Brook as soon as possible.

Right down to the last hour, the Hinks family fought to keep the elderly and ailing woman in hospital in Corner Brook.

Hinks said his mother was deemed a suitable patient to move because of her physical-care needs, but that her mental well-being is being ignored.

“When we broke the news to her, she broke down and cried,” he said.

He said hospital administrators are preaching “policy, policy, policy,” but are not considering the bigger picture. He is concerned his mother may not survive the transfer or will suffer irreparable complications.

“I would not be surprised if she suffered a mini-stroke because of this,” he said. “I told (hospital administration) that it is like they are pushing her out to pasture. I told them it is like they have a licence to kill.”

He said the family had the option of taking his mother home, but they do not consider that a viable alternative.

Hinks, and the rest of his family, asked for her to remain at Western Memorial or be transferred to a long-term care bed in Corner Brook. He said he has been told she is sixth on the wait list for a long-term care bed, and there is no timeframe for how long she would be at the Bay St. George Long-Term Care facility before there is an opening in Corner Brook.

They have contacted a number of politicians, including Liberal Leader Dwight Ball and New Democratic Party Leader Lorraine Michael, who Hinks said are looking into the matter on their behalf.

“We have our fingers crossed, just praying for some kind of miracle,” he said. “We are hoping somebody comes through for us.”

Appalling care

Meanwhile, Michael called the situation a sad reflection of the state of senior care in the province.

“I was appalled to hear that it is considered normal for an appreciable percentage of the beds in Western Memorial Hospital to be regularly occupied by people who should really be in other facilities,” Michael stated in a news release.

Michael said there is a crisis in senior care that the government refuses to address with a comprehensive plan.

“The eventual solution will include a mix of adequate home care, accessible and affordable housing, personal-care homes and long-term care facilities,” Michael stated.

Western Memorial has been seeing more patients than available beds for some time, and officials said long-term care patients are best served in long-term care facilities.

“We understand that decisions to move patients waiting for long-term care out of hospital to a long-term care facility that’s not their first choice are difficult on individuals and their families,” a spokesperson stated via an email. “These are very difficult decisions and we try and balance the immediate need for acute-care beds with the needs of our long-term care patients.”

The Western Star

Organizations: Western Memorial Regional Hospital, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball and New Democratic Party

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Deer Lake, Newfoundland Western Star

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