A decision to move a patient from the Arborg Hospital to the Morris Hospital has a Manitoba family fearing the move will speed his deterioration and perhaps even lead to his death.
The move takes patient Nigel Sigurdson 182 kilometres away from his family, a far cry from the 25 kilometres it previously was.
“We won’t be able to see him. It probably won’t be more than twice a week,” said Signy Sigurdson, the wife of Nigel. “And he’s a vulnerable person.”
Nigel had been residing at the Arborg facility since July while waiting for a transfer into a personal care home.
He suffered a severe stroke 23 years ago, and had been cared for by his wife until his condition deteriorated.
Nigel is non-verbal and cannot take care of his daily needs.
Signy told CTV News she received a call on Tuesday about the hospital transfer and that Nigel was gone the following day.
She said she was told the move was to make room for COVID-19 patients.
In a statement, a Shared Health spokesperson tells CTV News a new protocol was announced and implemented last month to improve patient flow and maintain non-COVID health-care services, such as non-urgent surgeries and diagnostics, during times of increased COVID activity.
David Matear, chief executive officer of the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority, said the move was made to increase hospital and acute care capacity so people in the area needing that level of care could get it.
“What we’re trying to do is trying to move those patients from acute care who don’t require that level of care to another facility and level of care that would better suit their needs,” said Matear.
In addition, Matear said opening up more capacity will enable patients who went to other areas of the province for procedures to return home for the remainder of their recovery.
The decision to move a patient from an acute care setting to a more suitable one is done with consideration on the kind of care that is needed and where that care is given, according to Matear.
“We wouldn’t move a patient two or three hours away if there was an alternative, suitable alternative closer to home.”
The type of hospital transfer Nigel experienced is not uncommon. Matear said in September 2020, alternative level of care patients like Nigel occupied 60 per cent of beds in the Interlake-Eastern health region. Currently that number sits at 20 per cent, which Matear said is actively being reviewed to find alternative placements.
According to Shared Health, 45 patients have been transferred to facilities in another health region to date as part of the new protocol.
“Having him sent away like that, being non-verbal and what not, is sort of like cruel and unusual punishment for anyone. It’s a big worry,” said Morris Sigurdson, Nigel’s brother.
Another concern for Morris was a perceived lack of communication with the family on the transfer process.
“We talked to everybody. The doctors have no say, the nurses have no say, everybody says this is coming from higher up. No one has any say and they are not saying anything either,” said Signy.
Shared Health said patients and their families receive information when they are admitted to an acute care setting advising them of the possibility of a transfer if their care can be safely and appropriately provided at another facility.
Matear said the transfer can happen quickly.
Right now, the family is taking it day by day but worries another move could come at any moment.
On a positive note, the family said it appears Nigel is getting good care at the Morris Hospital and is responding well.
With files from CTV’s Kayla Rosen and Michael D’alimonte
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