86-year-old patient left on stretcher for three days in waiting room at B.C. hospital

“We need more help,” says Jolene Carlsen, speaking for her 86-year-old father.

“We need the government to step up and do something, because the nurses need our support,” the Port Coquitlam resident adds.

Carlsen’s father, who has dementia, is also suffering from Cellulitis, a potentially serious bacterial skin infection.

When his long-term care home in North Vancouver sent him to be treated at Lions Gate Hospital, Carlsen says, her father was left in the waiting room on a stretcher for three days, without being changed or properly fed.

“The infection has made him very ill,” Carlsen said. “He was seen by a doctor and because he has kidney failure … the doctor suggested he be changed every three hours.”

“My mum had to beg someone to come and change him because he was just laying in dirty, soiled clothes,” Carlsen said. “Someone eventually did come but there was nowhere to take him to be changed. So they attempted to change him right in the waiting room in front of everybody. He just completely lost his dignity.”

Carlsen told CTV News Vancouver there were 14 other patients on stretchers in that same waiting room, and only one nurse to care for all of them.

Laura Tamblyn-Watts, a seniors’ advocate and president and CEO of CanAge, said it is not unusual to see vulnerable, frail seniors on stretchers for days.

“It’s a mounting problem that likely won’t improve unless significant changes are made in the health-care system,” said Tamblyn-Watts.

“Our ER rooms are filled with older, vulnerable seniors that have ongoing care needs, because they’re not being met in the community,” she added. “They’re not being met in retirement homes or in long-term care. When you don’t provide preventive and ongoing care, seniors end up in the ER room.”

Tamblyn-Watts said seniors are often abandoned in the health-care system and are left at the back of the line. The biggest strains are in Ontario, she said, followed by Quebec and Alberta. B.C. is not far behind, however.

The BC Nurses’ Union said in addition to a shortage of staff and beds, health-care workers continue to be overburdened by COVID-19 patients who are unvaccinated.

“Where is the obligation from our community to unburden our nurses?” said Aman Grewal, vice president of the BCNU. “You may not want to have that vaccine, but there are people around you, your elders, you need to be protecting.”

Elders like Carlsen’s father, who she will continue to advocate for, for as long as she can.

“If we all step up and say something, it has to change, there are people who can make this change,” said Carlsen.

Vancouver Coastal Health said in a statement to CTV News that it is committed to providing timely access to safe, quality care for patients and it apologizes for any delays patients may experience as a result of the increased demand.

“It continues to be safe to access services at hospitals and health-care clinics in our region,” the health authority said. “Do not delay care if you need it. We encourage anyone who is concerned about their care or their loved ones’ care to connect with our Patient Care Quality Office.”

In a statement to CTV News, the B.C. Ministry of Health said it cannot speak to individual cases, but understands the stress of having long waits in an emergency department.

“There are significant challenges facing health care community and emergency departments – it includes our public health emergency that is the overdose crisis, and continuing cases of COVID-19, especially among those who are unvaccinated.”

The Ministry of Health adds it is urging everyone to be vaccinated against COVID-19, not just to ease the pressures on the health-care system, but for their own health and safety.