An elderly couple who are patients at two Montreal hospitals are trying to be reunited, but their children worry that bureaucratic delays will prevent them from being together before it is too late.
The couple lived together in their home in Rosemont until June, 3 when 89-year-old Anna Driscoll fell and broke her hip. Driscoll is currently recovering at the Richardson Hospital in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
With his wife unable to care for him, Roland Sweeney, a 96-year-old veteran of the Second World War who has dementia, needed to be in a hospital setting.
In June, his family set the paperwork in motion for him to go to the veterans' hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. They were delighted when he was accepted. He's been in Ste. Anne's Hospital since early August.
Then, the family tried to get Driscoll transferred there so that the two could be reunited before their 72nd anniversary on Friday. But the wheels of the health bureaucracy move slowly and for the elderly couple, every day apart is difficult.
Their son, James, said his parents are now miserable and no longer believe they will be together again.
"They're still in love.… They don't know why it's happening but they know they're apart."
Seeing each other on screens, via video chat, does little to ease their pain.
"When they look at each other, they start crying," he said.
Since the province took over administration of the veterans' hospital in 2016, couples are eligible to be reunited there under Quebec law.
Tangled in red tape
Their daughter, Nancy, says their local CLSC told them Driscoll's case had been sent to the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, so that it could process the patient transfer to Ste. Anne's.
But after weeks of waiting, they say no progress appears to have been made. When reached for comment, the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal said they had not received a transfer request and said more information could be obtained from the CIUSSS de l'est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, which administers the Rosemont CLSC.
Nancy says the CLSC "did a great job" escalating the situation, but the family is worried that communication problems between the regional health boards are causing unnecessary delays.
The CIUSSS de l'est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal said it could not discuss specific patients due to rules protecting confidentiality.
The family is worried that the health of their parents will keep deteriorating as they wait for the health boards to process the request.
Further complicated by COVID-19
Sweeney and Driscoll last saw each other in person on June 25. With both now in hospital, another visit is impossible due to restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
James says his parents, who met at the end of the war, have both tested negative for the disease.
"I don't get it, why my mom and dad can't spend their last days together," he said.
The family says Driscoll is not responding to treatment and they're worried she will be transferred to a long-term care home as they wait for her paperwork to be processed.
The family has reached out to the Health Ministry and continues to communicate with a social worker.
"I don't have time to argue with the government," James said. "I just want them to live in peace for the years or months that they have together."
"The CIUSSS is just too big," he said, worried his parents are falling through the cracks.
"Another month like that, they're dead.… They're dying of sadness."