HSC ER policy keeps person with disability waiting alone

A Winnipeg woman wants to know why she wasn’t allowed to be with her friend who was waiting for care at Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Adult Emergency.

Sandi Reimer said Thursday afternoon she came to the HSC ER to support a friend who needed care. Reimer described her friend as someone lives with physical disabilities and cognitive impairment.

“I think she needed somebody to be there who could explain things to her in a way she could understand, just to reassure her when she felt like she just wanted to get up and leave,” said Reimer.

Despite updated visitation policies stating patients can have up to two support people in Manitoba ERs or urgent care centres, Reimer said both she and her friend’s father were told they couldn’t stay.

“Emergency (sic) staff told me it was because the waiting room was full and they didn’t have room for support people to be there with patients so the patient had to be there by herself.” 

Reimer said her friend waited five hours before being seen.

A Shared Health spokesperson told CTV News Winnipeg patient flow challenges at emergency departments are leading to longer waits and increased traffic and the organization is not aware of this specific circumstance.

“Our clinical staff and site operators make reasonable efforts to accommodate the needs of patients,” reads the Shared Health statement. “Access for caregivers is dependent on physical space in the department, however.”

Reimer said there was space.

“I observed the waiting room at the time and there were 12 chairs available, spaced out for social distancing in the waiting room. Three of them were occupied and nine were empty.”

She said COVID-19 was the reason to leave when she asked again why she couldn’t stay.

“Which didn’t make any sense because they weren’t screening and testing people and doing temperature checks before they even walked into the department,” she said.

Her issue isn’t with ER staff, it’s the policy and she said exceptions should be made for people who need help.

“The person with the disability or impairment needs to have somebody else who has a voice for them because they cant always verbalize or speak what they need to speak,” she said.

Reimer said at the time she called the hospital’s patient relations office, but didn’t reach anyone, and the phone line was answered with a pre-recorded response.

She told CTV New she will likely will not call again but if her friend needs to go back to the ER Reimer says she will try and wait with her, or make sure someone else is there to provide support.

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