MUHC reviews admission policies after death of Indigenous woman with no medicare card

The MUHC says it has changed the way it deals with patients without valid medicare cards following the death of a patient in 2016 who was brought to the Royal Victoria Hospital and left after she was told what her treatment would cost.

Kimberly Gloade's boyfriend suggests she was told her treatment would have cost her close to $1,400.

Gloade died of cirrhosis of the liver, weeks after turning up at the emergency room at the Royal Victoria Hospital, and being told she would have to pay for her treatment because she didn't have a medicare card.

The 43-year-old Mi'kmaq woman had battled homelessness for years, and a coroner's report suggested her liver and heart problems were brought on by years of drug and alcohol abuse.

The coroner's report also spurred an internal review by the MUHC, and noted that Gloade very likely tried to ease her pain with drugs and alcohol at her apartment in the weeks leading up to her death.

Her family also suggested it should have been made clearer to Gloade when she went to the ER that payment should not have been a hindrance to her getting the care she needed.

Dr. Ewa Sidorowicz, the director of public services at the MUHC, says that internal review looked into what happened before Gloade left the hospital on the evening of Feb. 6, 2016, She was first seen by a triage nurse within 10 minutes, and was ordered to undergo a series of tests. After the tests were done, Gloade went to the registration desk, where patients usually present their medicare cards, or are told what happens if they don't have one, for one reason or another.

There's no record of what was said between the time she was seen by the registration desk and the time she left the hospital a few minutes later.

But Dr. Sidorowicz suggests it will be made clear to patients that they will be seen by a doctor — regardless of their ability to pay.

"The focus here is that patients come for care first. Even if a patient does not have insurance, our priority is to make sure the patient accesses the care that they need. And that's when we reviewed the way that the message was being delivered to patients who did not have medical insurance. We made sure that all of the clerks were very much aware...that our concern was that they were properly taken care of, and that the payment was secondary."

Dr. Sidorowicz says a patient showing up at the ER in similar circumstances now will encounter staff that has been sensitized to that new message, and that those that appear hesitant about