Nova Scotia residents continue to share stories of ordeals at county hospitals, experiences with more serious consequences than just a long wait for care.
Missy Johnson, who lives in Lower Sackville, said her father had a car accident when he was sent away — despite a fever — from the Copcoid Community Health Center because the emergency room was closing.
Johnson said her father, Dave Pequot, was taken to hospital by ambulance earlier this month after developing a fever. After waiting for nearly eight hours, he was told he had an infection that doctors were unable to locate. He was told to leave because the department was closing, and to come back the next morning.
On the return trip the next day, he lost consciousness while driving and crashed into a telephone pole. He spent two days at Cupcoid Health Center before being transferred to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.
“They should never have brought him home,” Johnson said. “Why would you send a 79-year-old man with an infection in his body and a fever home?”
She said her father is now on the mend. She has also set up a GoFundMe to help replace the bright green Volkswagen Beetle that was assembled in the accident.
The system is in crisis
According to data from Nova Scotia Health, 241 NS Health employees are out of work as of August 25 due to testing positive for COVID-19, awaiting COVID-19 testing, or exposure to a loved one who has tested positive for the disease.
The crisis in emergency rooms has been worsening since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff shortages as well as fewer family physicians have increased the numbers of people seeking care in the emergency room.
Last month, the regional NDP released records showing that 43,000 people walked away from the emergency room without receiving treatment last year, up 60 percent from the previous year.
Leora Moyes said her mother, Kim Fenwick, waited for more than three hours on the emergency department floor of Valley Regional Hospital, vomiting and disoriented, before getting something to sit on.
While waiting, Muise said other people waiting for care started leaving because they were uncomfortable seeing Fenwick in her condition.
“I understand they’re understaffed, but if you’re going to make people wait eight or nine hours at a time and they’re already sick, your priority should be their comfort and wellness,” Muise said. “You could have died on this floor.”
When doctors visited Fenwick, Moyes said her mother was given medication for her nausea, and an intravenous drip to replenish her fluids. She was told that her white blood cell count was high, but received no further information about her condition.
Fenwick said she didn’t remember much of the time she spent in the hospital, but she believes the problem is how to organize cases once patients are in the emergency room.
‘They need to fix it,’ says Halifax resident.
Jessica Ingram of Halifax said she also feels like she’s failed because of the health care system.
Ingram underwent a routine colonoscopy at Dartmouth General Hospital in November 2021. Just a few hours later, Ingram said she started experiencing severe stomach pain and vomiting. Ingram said she went to QEII and was initially told she might have constipation.
After several hours of waiting, Ingram said scans revealed that part of her intestine was dying and it was possible that the colonoscopy had altered the intestinal tract.
When she was diagnosed, she was taken to surgery and had 130cms of intestine removed. The entire ordeal took about 12 hours.
“They need to fix it,” Ingram said of the health care system. “How many people are going to go through that?”
Houston says shame on healthcare critics
But Prime Minister Tim Houston had a brief message this week for anyone critical of the county’s health care system.
“If you get sick in this county, you get very good care,” he said. “Shame on everyone who suggests otherwise.”
Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Houston said the changes are being implemented quickly.
“The amount of work that’s happening in the health care system, the speed with which health care professionals are responding, and with the changes and improvements, and the collaboration that we’re seeing with health care professionals, it’s absolutely amazing.”