Frustrated family members of a former Burnaby city councillor are raising concerns about the shortage of long-term care beds for seniors and the treatment their father is receiving at Burnaby Hospital.
Douglas Evans was a local city councillor from 1990 to 2005 and served on the Burnaby Hospital board in the 1990s. Now 82, he suffers from Alzheimer's disease and was picked up by police about three months ago, after he became lost while out for a walk. Evans was sent to Burnaby Hospital, and according to his family, his health has deteriorated since he was admitted. His muscles have atrophied, he can no longer care for himself, and he's contracted pneumonia and C. difficile, a bacterium that causes diarrhea and is easily transmitted in unclean environments.
His family is arguing that the hospital is no place for a person suffering from Alzheimer's.
"It's just heartbreaking for us to see him in this situation," said Diane Evans, one of his daughters. "He went into a hospital a healthy man, now he needs an enormous amount of care."
In a letter to the minister of health, the ombudsperson of B.C. and the Fraser Health Authority's patient care quality review board, Diane described the grim conditions in which they found their father.
"We found him tied to a bed, wearing only a diaper, and drugged into a stupor," she wrote. "Even though I'm sure the doctors and nurses mean well, we are appalled at the situation our father is in. Hospitals are not the place for people suffering from Alzheimer's. His time at Burnaby General Hospital has severely damaged his health."
The family would like their father to be admitted in a long- term care facility, before his health further deteriorates, but they say the waitlists are too long.
"As for the placement officers placing him in a care home, I have never dealt with so many people that could not answer a single question about care homes, about what homes could not care for him, about anything," Diane added. "The answer we got most often was, 'I don't know.'"
On Monday, Diane spoke at a press conference held at Raj Chouhan's office, the MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds, and was joined by NDP health critic Mike Farnworth.
Farnworth called on the government to create more long-term spaces for seniors' care.
"As we have an aging population, more cases of Alzheimer's, we need those spaces," he said. "The bottom line is there aren't enough beds."
According to Farnworth, the cost of keeping someone in an acute care bed in hospital is roughly $1,500 a day, while long-term beds can costs $200 to $500.
Chouhan, who has known Evans for decades, echoed Farnworth's concerns.
"The health authority was not able to provide those beds. They're not even telling us how long till he'll be moved out of Burnaby Hospital," he said.
The family was told that their father could be moved immediately if they could afford $4,000 to $5,000 a month to cover the care costs, which they can't.
The Fraser Health Authority typically can't comment on individual cases, due to patient confidentiality, but spokesperson Roy Thorpe-Dorward released a statement to media on Monday.
"We understand that it is very frustrating and distressing for family members when a loved one's condition deteriorates unexpectedly and share their desire for the patient to be discharged from hospital and transferred to a residential care facility that can provide appropriate care as soon as possible," he wrote in an email. "However, patients need to be stabilized and have their acute care needs met before they can be properly assessed and transferred to residential care. If a patient's condition changes during a hospital stay, this can sometimes mean that the patient will need to be assessed more than once and a care plan that was previously appropriate may need to change. In this case, another assessment for residential care placement will be completed as soon as the patient is properly stabilized."
According to Thorpe-Dorward, the average wait for someone to get into residential care from Burnaby Hospital is 20 to 26 days, but that's after the patient has been assessed as eligible. That average time is within the provincial 30-day target, Thorpe-Dorward added.
Fraser Health has roughly 7,800 "complex residential care beds" and their occupancy rate is at 99 per cent, Thorpe-Dorward said.
"Our population is the fastest growing in B.C., and seniors are the fastest growing segment of the population. We are working to add capacity - the redeveloped Carlton Gardens in Burnaby is expected to re-open this fall, adding 128 beds (116 funded by Fraser Health) to the community - and Fraser Health is also issuing an expression of interest this fall to provide residential and mental health complex care services for the Tri-Cities, Surrey and White Rock/South Surrey communities to add additional capacity. Still, increased demand has meant that there is sometimes a wait for an appropriate bed to become available," he wrote.
Thorpe-Dorward also said that Fraser Health's patient care quality office is working with the Evans family and caregivers at Burnaby Hospital "to address concerns," and that a patient care quality officer has spoken to the family and is gathering and reviewing information.
To read Diane's letter of complaint to the patient care quality office, go to Jennifer Moreau's blog.