Widow demands meeting with Manitoba health minister over lapses in husband’s care

A widow is pleading with Manitoba’s health minister to meet with her about what she says were lapses in care during the weeks leading up to her husband’s death last year.

Susan Robert said home care staff dismissed her pleas for additional help, her husband Wayne was put into a COVID ward despite being told he would die if he caught the virus, and she only got to see her husband when he became unconscious.

To top it off, Robert said the wristband her husband was wearing in the intensive care unit belonged to somebody else.

“Health care in this province failed my husband. It failed my family and it failed me,” Robert told reporters after question period Tuesday at the Manitoba Legislature.

It began last summer. Robert said her husband, Wayne, had nerve damage stemming from diabetes so he couldn’t feel when something was amiss with his feet. 

She said home care staff appeared to ignore what she was saying.

“I couldn’t see his feet because they were wrapping his legs every day [with a bandage] from the heels on up to the knees … All I could see was his toes and I kept telling them something is wrong, ‘look at the colour, please check his feet,'” she said. 

“I assumed they knew what they were doing and mistakenly assumed they were giving him the best care that he could get.” 

By the time Wayne was taken to the hospital, he was looking at amputation. 

“As soon as he heard that diagnosis, he said, ‘I am giving up, I can’t do this anymore.'”

A man smiles while holding a baby.
Wayne Robert died last fall at the age of 68 after a lengthy stay at St. Boniface Hospital. (Submitted by Colin Roy/Manitoba Liberal Party)

Robert said the last weeks of her husband’s life were excruciating for him and their family. She said he was later diagnosed with pneumonia, and seemed to be confused and possibly hallucinating, which may have stemmed from his Parkinson’s. 

Then, he was transferred to a COVID ward, where Robert says she wasn’t able to see him for weeks. She says she was only allowed in days before he died at the age of 68. 

Calls for meeting 

Robert says she doesn’t want this to happen to any other family, and wants a meeting with Health Minister Audrey Gordon to share her story. But she says she feels like Gordon is avoiding her. 

“She doesn’t want to deal with this,” Robert said. 

“I’m getting really frustrated and I’m not going quietly and I’m not going to give up like they think I will. I’m going to get louder.”

A government spokesperson confirmed that Susan Robert had been in touch with Manitoba Health but declined to comment further, citing privacy issues. 

Robert’s story was brought up during question period by Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard, while Robert listened in the gallery. 

In response, Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care Scott Johnston said he was very sorry for Robert’s situation and that his department will continue to work with Manitoba Health to “determine what further initiatives we can take to ensure that the situations that [Gerrard] references don’t continue to take place.”

CBC News also requested information from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority about Robert’s experience. A spokesperson said they were looking into it. 

Robert said her husband Wayne is terribly missed. 

“My house has the loudest silence you have ever heard in your life and it never goes away,” she said, adding that the loss has been particularly hard on their eldest son, who is disabled. 

“There is nobody else in his life besides dad. Dad is everything and he’s without him now.”