A Deseronto, Ont., man is frustrated after it took a doctor’s appointment and multiple ER visits to learn his wife had several mini-strokes.
Mark Janes took his wife Lori Toth to the Lennox and Addington County General Hospital in nearby Napanee on June 13.
“She was dragging her leg and her speech was all messed up, so I rushed her to [the hospital],” he said.
Janes said he wasn’t allowed into the hospital because of COVID-19 protocols, so he waited in the car. After about eight hours, Toth sent a text asking to be picked up.
“I went to the front door and got her and tried to have her explain to me what was going on. She really couldn’t comprehend or couldn’t speak or anything,” he said.
Despite his concern, Janes said he trusted the hospital’s decision to release Toth so he took her home.
However, when Toth’s condition got worse, they went to their family doctor two days later.
They were advised to go to the Kingston General Hospital immediately, where they waited another 13 hours before seeing an emergency room doctor.
It just boggles my mind that they would send somebody home in that condition.– Mark Janes
“They took her for a test, came back and confirmed multiple mini-strokes,” Janes said.
Toth was admitted to the hospital for a week before transferring to a Providence Care Hospital, where she stayed another two weeks.
She returned home last week and Janes said she is doing better now, though she still suffers from short-term memory loss and a slight speech impediment.
While he’s grateful for the care his wife received, Janes said he wishes they had more clarity about what happened at the first hospital.
Janes reached out to it for answers through its website, but never got a response.
“It just boggles my mind that they would send somebody home in that condition,” Janes said.
“She could have died and they just sent her out.”
Health-care system under pressure
Erin Brown, the patient relations lead at Lennox and Addington County Hospital, said the hospital can’t provide specific information about patients.
She said system capacity is being stretched, which may have contributed to longer wait times in the emergency department.
“There’s no denying that our health-care system is under immense pressure,” she said.
“We are at historic highs for key indicators such as ambulance offload time. We are also seeing a higher volume of patients seeking care in the emergency department.”
She also said that while patients are encouraged to attend ambulatory appointments and visits to the emergency department alone, they are allowed to have one visitor if physical distancing can be maintained. Caregivers are always allowed to accompany patients.
Patient advocacy needed now more than ever
Paige Lennox, a registered nurse and the founder and CEO of Canadian Health Advocates Inc., said staff shortages, backed-up emergency departments and a lack of beds are making experiences like Toth’s more and more common.
“We don’t want people to be discharged without proper resources in place, or discharged prematurely,” she said.
“So kind of taking a proactive approach and really advocating for yourself is so important and unfortunate.”
Really advocating for yourself is so important and unfortunate.– Paige Lennox, Canadian Health Advocates Inc.
Lennox said one of the ways to do that is by getting in touch with the hospital’s discharge planner, but she recognizes that’s not always possible for patients to do on their own.
She said her team of 14 nurses across Canada work with patients to attend medical appointments, communicate with hospital staff and update their loved ones.
Lennox recommends inviting a third party to come along to appointments.
“It doesn’t have to be one of us, it can be a family, or friend … even if it’s just on a speakerphone.”