N.S. man has been living in a hospital for 9 months – his sister blames 'inept' government department

Wendy Martin has a pile of paperwork that is testament to a fight that has consumed her for months – to find her brother a proper place to live with the supports he needs.

61-year-old Ronnie King suffers from symptoms of dementia, brought on by years of alcohol dependence.

Last November, Martin says her brother was admitted to hospital after he fell and broke his collarbone.

That was around the same time she says he'd been evicted from his apartment. Once treated in hospital, King had nowhere else to go. He's been in the Victoria General (VG) site of the QEII hospital ever since.

"By the time February came," she says, "the decision was made that Ronnie would be going to a group home setting."

Martin says she worked with hospital staff, including the hospital social worker, to contact the provincial Department of Community Services (DCS) to make that happen.

It didn't.

"Roadblock after roadblock, red tape, inept, they're just completely inept," she says, "they refuse to do anything to help."

Martin says it took her two months to reach her brother's community services worker, then spent months submitting various forms and applications to DCS. She says at one point a community services worker closed Ronnie's file because it was missing information – without telling her.

She says the department also cut off her brother's social assistance because he's been living in hospital.

It all means that for the better part of a year, Ronnie has been living in a room shared with two other patients on a locked transition ward at the VG.

Martin says he's allowed out several times a day for a cigarette, and on day passes to spend time with her.

She wonders how many other people are out there in the same situation.

"With our hospital system already being as strained as it is," she adds, "I would love to see a tally of how much money it's costing to leave him in a hospital where he doesn't need to be?"

Martin's MLA has been working on the case and admits the process has been frustrating.

"They've just got to have a clearer process," says Halifax Atlantic MLA Brendan Maguire.

Maguire has helped get Ronnie on what's called a "By Name" list – managed by the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia – that keeps track of people in the Halifax area actively looking for suitable housing. As of Tuesday, that list is 426 names long.

Maguire says reaching this point that took going through the department and two non-profit housing organizations. He says it should be easier for a family advocating for loved ones to get help.

"Ronnie's in a position where he shouldn't be in a hospital," says Maguire, "he should be in a home and having a more dignified living space."

The Department of Community Services wouldn't talk about Ronnie's case specifically.

Instead, the department's media relations representative sent a short, written statement instead:

"The Department of Community Services works diligently to provide supports to low-income Nova Scotians in need— this includes ensuring they have access to required supports, services and housing needs."

Martin begs to differ.

"Every step we took with the department of community services," she insists, "there were roadblocks put up."

She says she's not giving up, until her brother has a place to call home -- that isn't a hospital.