Man’s health endangered at Comox hospital, says his sister

The sister of a 56-year-old man admitted recently to St. Joseph's General Hospital says his health was endangered.

OWEN TAKEFMAN

The sister of a 56-year-old man admitted recently to St. Joseph’s General Hospital says his health was endangered by an overwhelming patient load in a section of the Comox hospital that was restructured last year.Owen Takefman was recently admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital in respiratory distress and given a tracheotomy in order to breathe, says sister Ann Zanbilowicz.The physically and mentally challenged man received proper care in the Intensive Care Unit, she says. In fact, he might not have lived through the first few days without 24-hour monitoring, Zanbilowicz adds.The situation changed, she explains, when Takefman was transferred to the medical/surgical transitional care unit on the third floor, where she says things were more stressful and chaotic for patients and staff.  “What we saw and were told was that nurses are overwhelmed by the patient load,” Zanbilowicz says, noting Owen’s inability to ring a bell for help. “He was in danger because there wasn’t enough staff to sit with him. This is absolutely not the fault of the nurses. This is understaffing. They are just run off their feet.”Owen’s nurse could not adequately monitor his breathing and seizures because she had other acutely ill patients. When notified Takefman was being discharged, Zanbilowicz says the situation became laughable. “Where were they going to discharge him to when no one had been trained to care for his tracheotomy?” she said, noting the question became moot when he contracted C.difficile, a bacteria that can cause severe diarrhea and other intestinal problems.Takefman remains in hospital until he is better, she adds.Zanbilowicz feels her brother’s experience illustrates the problem of bed shortages and understaffing at St. Joe’s, which she attributes to lack of funding. “No one has stood up to say, ‘We can’t do this on the money you’re giving us,’ ” she says. “Eight thousand people signed a petition decrying the closing of acute-care beds and the firing of 32 nurses over one year ago but we were ignored. We were right and (then-president/CEO) Michael Pontus was wrong. It is a disaster and it’s getting worse as more elderly people are moved into the very limited acute-care beds on the third floor.”Aside from the greater number of patients on the third floor, Zanbilowicz notes the pressure on doctors to discharge patients when others await help in the emergency department.”The administration swore last year that this wouldn’t happen: ‘No acute care beds will be lost. We have a plan with VIHA (Vancouver Island Health Authority) that will resolve the pressure on acute-care beds.’ Not only has it happened but there are still elderly people who should be in residential care in beds on the third floor and the first floor, not just the transition unit.”Hospital administration did not return calls by press time.reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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