Manitoba patients being sent 300 kms away to free up beds for COVID, surgery backlog: family

Hospital patients paneled for care home spots are being moved hundreds of kilometres away from their homes and loved ones to free up beds and space as demand increases, one family says.

Florence Brown has been in the hospital in Ashern, Man., since August 2020 after taking a bad fall.

Read more: Manitoba’s top doctor says new restrictions coming as COVID 19 numbers rise

“Dad could no longer care for her at home. So she was admitted to the hospital in Ashern and while she was there, she got paneled to the personal care home,” her son Craig Brown told Global News.

“She’s on the waitlist and so she’s been in the hospital since then.”

Click to play video: 'Surgery backlog grows to 130,000 cases: Doctors Manitoba' Surgery backlog grows to 130,000 cases: Doctors Manitoba

Surgery backlog grows to 130,000 cases: Doctors Manitoba – Oct 14, 2021

Every day since Florence has been in hospital, her husband of 60 years, Colin, makes the 10-minute drive from their family home in Moosehorn to visit her.

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“His routine is he would take his lunch to the hospital and have lunch with her every day, have a game of cards, visit for a couple of hours and be home by 2:30-3 p.m. every day. She banked on that,” he said.

But now Brown is being told his 80-year-old mother is being moved to Baldur, Man., a town more than 300 kilometres away.

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“The clinical team manager or the hospital manager informed my parents that anybody waiting in a hospital, anybody taking up a hospital bed waiting for a PCH is going to be transferred elsewhere,” he said.

“The reason is to make to make beds available for people requiring surgeries or a bed after surgery or preparation for COVID.”

A letter sent to the family and shared with Global News said hospitals are preparing for an increase in COVID-19 activity in the community, and with a rise in cases it is expected to also see an increase in patients needing to be admitted to hospital.

“We are making every effort to provide care for both COVID patients as well as all other Manitobans who require timely access to a hospital bed, surgery or non-COVID health service… it is necessary that some patients be transferred for their ongoing care so that we can maintain capacity in our facility for sicker patients,” a portion of the letter reads.

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Read more: Surgery backlog grows to 130,000 cases: Doctors Manitoba

Brown’s family has been given no other option for a facility closer to home and said they are getting no answers from Shared Health, the health minister’s office or their MLA.

“That’s their life and to just be told that, ‘Sorry, to do what you’ve done every day for the last 14 months, you’ll now have to drive seven hours’… It won’t happen,” Brown said.

“These are the golden years, right? You’re supposed to enjoy them. You’re not supposed to be told by some anonymous person in a boardroom somewhere that, ‘Your bed is needed, see you later.’”

Brown said he was informed Wednesday afternoon that his mother would be moved to Baldur the following Monday and two other patients currently with her in the Ashern hospital are also being sent to the same facility away from family.

Monika Warren, provincial operations chief for COVID-19 incident command with Shared Health, said while she recognizes the challenge facing the Browns and others, the moves are needed to free up bed space over the short term.

“We really need their support while we try to make room for other patients that are waiting to receive care,” she told 680 CJOB.

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Read more: Manitoba reports 143 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

“So although it’s extremely disruptive — I really understand that — what I can reassure (Craig) and other Manitobans is that these aren’t easy decisions, but we are very much going to continue to provide excellent care to his family member and make sure that we support them through this very disruptive and difficult transition.”

Numbers from Shared Health show 24 patients have so far been transferred outside their “home” health region, including 14 from Winnipeg and 10 from the Interlake-Eastern Health region.

While Warren couldn’t say exactly how many patients will be need to be moved, she said “a few” will likely need to be transferred on a daily basis going forward.

Click to play video: 'Hospital prepare as COVID-19 cases climb again' Hospital prepare as COVID-19 cases climb again

Hospital prepare as COVID-19 cases climb again

Warren also couldn’t say how long the transfers will last, but said patients facing end-of-life situations won’t be among those chosen to be moved.

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“These are really tough and difficult decisions,” she said.

“Our teams are really carefully trying to evaluate every case and make sure that they continue to receive the excellent care they’ve already been receiving.”

Read more: Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine yet in Manitoba? How to book it and where to go

For now, the Brown family is fighting to keep their loved one closer to home but they are running out of options and Brown said it’s leaving both his parents frustrated and upset.

“(My mom) said, ‘I feel I’m being treated worse than cattle… they’re simply loading us up on the truck, sending us down the road, and that’s it,’ and I can’t disagree with her. My dad said he feels hopeless.”

Global News reached out to Health Minister Audrey Gordon, but the minister’s office did not respond.

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