Hours on the floor, crashing in a fevered haze: N.S. residents share more stories of ER ordeals

·4 min read
Dave Piccot of Lower Sackville, N.S., was sent away from the Cobequid Community Health Centre with a high fever due to infection. He passed out and crashed his car as he was driving back to the hospital the next morning.  (Anjuli Patil/CBC - image credit)
Dave Piccot of Lower Sackville, N.S., was sent away from the Cobequid Community Health Centre with a high fever due to infection. He passed out and crashed his car as he was driving back to the hospital the next morning. (Anjuli Patil/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotians continue to share stories of ordeals in the province's hospitals, experiences that lead to consequences more serious than just a long wait for care.

Missy Johnson, who lives in Lower Sackville, said her father got into a car accident when he was sent away — despite a fever — from the Cobequid Community Health Centre because the ER was closing.

Johnson said her father, Dave Piccot, was taken to the hospital by ambulance earlier this month after developing a fever. After waiting nearly eight hours, he was told he had an infection that doctors couldn't locate. He was told to leave because the department was closing, and to return the next morning.

On his return trip the next day, he passed out during the drive and crashed into a telephone pole. He spent two days at the Cobequid Health Centre before being transferred to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.

"They never should have sent him home," said Johnson. "Why would you send a 79-year-old man, who has an infection in his body and a fever, home?"

She said her father is now on the mend. She's also set up a GoFundMe to help replace the bright green Volkswagen Beetle that was totalled in the  accident.

System in crisis

According to data from Nova Scotia Health, there are 241 NS Health employees off work as of Aug. 25 due to testing positive for COVID-19, waiting for a COVID-19 test or being exposed to a member of their household who tested positive for the disease.

The crisis in emergency rooms has been building since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staffing shortages combined with fewer family doctors have led to increased numbers of people seeking care at an ER.

Last month, the provincial NDP released records showing 43,000 people walked away from an ER without being treated last year, up 60 per cent from the year before.

Leora Muise said her mother, Kim Fenwick, waited for more than three hours on the emergency department floor of the Valley Regional Hospital, vomiting and disoriented, before she was given something to sit on.

During the wait, Muise said other people waiting for care began to leave because they were uncomfortable seeing Fenwick in her condition.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

"I understand that they're understaffed, but if you're going to make people wait for eight, nine hours at a time and they're actually really sick, your priority should be their comfort and wellness," Muise said. "She could have died on that floor."

When the doctors did see Fenwick, Muise said her mother was given medication for her nausea, and an I.V. drip to replenish her fluids. She was told her white blood cell count was elevated, but did not receive any other information about her condition.

Fenwick said she didn't remember much from her time in the hospital, but she believes the problem lies in how cases are organized once patients are admitted to the ER.

'They need to fix it,' says Halifax resident

Jessica Engram from Halifax said she also feels she was failed by the health-care system.

Engram had a routine colonoscopy at Dartmouth General Hospital in November 2021. Just a few hours later, Engram said she began to experience intense stomach pains and vomiting. Engram said she went to the QEII and was initially told she might be experiencing constipation.

After several hours of waiting, Engram said scans revealed a portion of her bowel was dying and it was possible the colonoscopy had shifted her intestinal tract.

When she was diagnosed, she was taken into surgery and had 130 centimetres of bowel removed. The entire ordeal took about 12 hours.

"They need to fix it," Engram said of the health-care system. "How many more people are going to go through that?"

Houston says 'shame on' detractors of health care

But Premier Tim Houston had a terse message this week for anyone being critical about the provincial health-care system.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

"If you get sick in this province, you will get extremely good care," he said. "Shame on anyone who suggests otherwise."

Speaking after a cabinet meeting Wednesday, Houston said changes are being implemented quickly.

"The amount of work that's happening in the health-care system, the speed that health-care professionals are responding and with changes and improvements, the cooperation we see with health-care professionals, it's absolutely breathtaking."

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