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Family questioning process at St. Anthony hospital

Melsie Earle (left) is questioning why her mother Ethel Stone (right) was told to vacate her hospital bed at Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony.
Melsie Earle (left) is questioning why her mother Ethel Stone (right) was told to vacate her hospital bed at Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony. - Contributed

Daughter says mother’s discharge day was more stressful than necessary

ST. ANTHONY, N.L.

A Labrador woman is wondering why her 86-year-old mother couldn’t have been allowed stay in her room at the hospital in St. Anthony for a few extra hours on the day she was scheduled to fly back home to Forteau.

Ethel Stone had been a patient at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony since Nov. 3, receiving care after a surgery in St. John’s for a broken hip.

She was scheduled to be flown back home to Forteau, Labrador, on Nov. 20.

Stone’s daughter, Melsie Earle, was with her mother at the hospital, and says they had hoped to stay in the hospital room until the bus was scheduled to leave for the St. Anthony airport at 4 p.m.

However, at 10 a.m. that day, they were informed by staff that Stone would have to vacate her bed for another patient.

Earle says she had to carry her mother’s luggage to the hostel, which is located in the old section of the hospital and connected to Curtis Memorial. Then she had to come back for her mother and bring her to the hostel in a wheelchair.

While it wasn’t a huge distance to travel, Earle says it added stress for both of them.

Just 24 hours earlier, Earle had undergone a day surgery herself. 

Melsie Earle with her mother Ethel Stone at the hospital in St. Anthony. - Contributed
Melsie Earle with her mother Ethel Stone at the hospital in St. Anthony. - Contributed

“By the time I got her down (to the hostel), she was really tired and frustrated and she started crying,” Earle told The Northern Pen.

Hospital staff provided Stone with a walker, but the room at the hostel presented challenges, her daughter said.

For instance, the washroom could not accommodate a walker or a wheelchair.

So Earle, after just having surgery herself, had to help her mother into the washroom and lift her as there were no grab bars on the walls.

“It was crazy, it should never happen,” she said. “I knows it’s going to happen again, but it should never happen. To me, it’s disrespectful to the elderly.”

They left the hostel for the airport at 4 p.m. as scheduled.

Earle says later that evening she contacted the other patient who had been in the same hospital room as her mother, curious about what had happened with the bed.

Rhonda Colbourne, the other patient in the room, told Earle the bed was never filled.

Colbourne posted about the situation herself on Facebook. Her post drew attention, and had hundreds of shares.

“To me this is just disgusting,” she wrote. “Because no one ever got moved into that room afterwards.”

Earle questions why they were told her mother had to vacate the bed for another patient.

“It doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It frustrated me even more to know that, after telling me they wanted the bed for someone else.”

Earle stressed she felt the nurses were not at fault.

“The nurses were great,” she said.

But the frustrated woman wants to know who made the decision that her mother had to leave the hospital at 10 a.m.

In February, 2018, Labrador-Grenfell Health announced it was cutting rooms with four beds down to two beds at the hospital in St. Anthony.

At the time, the health authority said this was done to improve patient privacy and provide more working space for staff.

Travel concerns

Earle also took issue with how her 86-year-old mother had to travel alone for medical services after she fell and broke her hip in October.

“Right from the start, mom got the runaround,” she Earle said.

Stone was flown to St. John’s by air ambulance the day after she broke her hip on Oct. 26.

Earle says originally the family was told one them would be allowed to travel with their mother.

However, minutes before the ambulance arrived, they were told their mother would have to travel alone.

“We had to go in and tell her she had to go alone,” said Earle. “Which almost broke her heart, having to travel to St. John’s alone.”

Fortunately, Earle’s son was in St. John’s when Stone arrived there.

Her two daughters flew in to be with her later.

Stone’s surgery and care in St. John’s went well.

On Nov. 3 she was ready to fly back to St. Anthony to continue her recovery at Charles S. Curtis Hospital.

Again, a family member was ready to fly out with her but, once again, the family was told she would have to fly alone.

According to Earle, they were told the reason for this was to ensure the confidentiality of the other patient on board the flight.

Earle did not feel this was a good enough reason given how acquainted they had become with the other patient.

“Made no sense to me,” she said. “It wasn’t because there was no room, because the patient who went sat in a seat, didn’t have a stretcher.

“And the same lady who went on the plane with mom was in the same hospital room with her for 17-18 days. So where was the confidentiality there? There was just a curtain between them.”

This time, Stone had no family to meet her when she arrived in St. Anthony.

Earle flew out later to be with her mother.

She felt the whole ordeal was stressful for the 86-year-old.

The Northern Pen contacted the Labarador Grenfell Health for comment for this story, but the health care authority did not reply prior to deadline.

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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