Parents in the central Alberta town of Drayton Valley are complaining about uncomfortable conditions in the local hospital emergency department's COVID-19 isolation room.
Brittany Broere brought her seven-year-old sister Azzie to the Drayton Valley Hospital and Care Centre on Friday night.
Azzie had a suspected sinus infection. Because she also had a sore throat, she and her sister were told to wait in a room by themselves.
The small room had a single chair but few other furnishings. In a Facebook post on Sunday, Broere compared it to a prison cell.
"There's no bed. There's not even equipment in the room. Nothing. It's just floor — walls and a floor," she told CBC News on Monday.
Broere said she tried to have her sister sit on the chair, and eventually obtained a second one, but Azzie was too dizzy to sit and wanted to lie down.
Broere put her coat on the floor and snuck a pillow from the hallway so her sister had something to rest her head on.
The pair waited in the isolation room for 2½ hours before Azzie saw a doctor who diagnosed a sinus infection and gave her a prescription.
In an emailed statement, Alberta Health Services spokesperson Heather Kipling said Drayton Valley's hospital, like many rural facilities, has no dedicated isolation rooms in the emergency department, so staff prepare available rooms as required.
She said patients are given a chair instead of a stretcher, if medically appropriate, to increase the number of patients seen in the emergency department. If a child must be isolated, a second chair is typically provided for the parent or guardian.
Friday night wasn't Broere's first time isolating at the Drayton Valley hospital.
Two months ago, when her sons developed ear infections and fevers, they were brought to the same isolation room with a single chair.
Broere said she and her sons spent 5½ hours waiting in the room. They left without getting treatment when they heard they would likely be waiting for two more hours.
She said that on Friday, when she asked a nurse why a bed couldn't be brought to her sister in the isolation room, the nurse told her there were no cleaning staff on shift who could clean the room after it had been occupied.
Broere said she isn't angry at hospital staff; she feels for them.
"They don't have the support, the funding or the resources to do their jobs properly," she said.
Tracy Hack, a mother of five in Drayton Valley, visited the emergency department's isolation room recently with her four-year-old son, who had bronchitis.
She said being trapped in a room for a long time can be scary for young children — especially if they are sick.
"It's a chair that you can barely fit on yourself, never mind having your child sit on your lap and then you're sitting in there for hours," Hack said.
No washroom access
Justus Seely said he and his fiancée spent 90 minutes in the Drayton Valley hospital's isolation room with their five-year-old son, who had a dry cough.
He said his fiancée sat in the chair and he made a bed for his son by spreading out his hoodie on a counter.
"We were told that we weren't allowed to leave the room and if we had to go to the bathroom then they would bring one of those portable urine things or a bedpan," Seely said.
Kipling said patients are given a commode or urinal while in isolation to help avoid the spread of COVID-19.
She said AHS will work with patients who have had complaints about recent experiences in its facilities.
"We know this is not ideal, and we are committed to working with any patients and families to review any recent negative experiences in our facilities," she said.
She said AHS has been trying to hire more cleaning staff but in the meantime, the number of cleaners is reduced for some shifts, including evenings and weekends.