When Greg Mitchell of Ottawa picked up his grandmother from University Hospital in London, Ont., last week, he says he was surprised to find her in her wheelchair wearing only a blue hospital gown, with the temperature –10 C.
“They sent home her clothing in a bag,” said Mitchell about the 95-year-old, who has dementia.
“When the porter dropped her off to me outside, she said something to the effect that, ‘She’s a handful, and she’s not happy and she’s all yours now.'”
Now, Mitchell, a father of three and research scientist with the federal government, wants the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) to review his grandmother’s case in hopes no other patient is discharged without being fully dressed.
He didn’t want her name used to protect her privacy and for fear of reprisals.
“I wish they had just been able to take the time to put her clothing on,” Mitchell said.
They brought her out in just a hospital gown and it was –10 out.– Greg Mitchell about his grandmother
“I was just so hurt. To be honest, I just felt like we could be setting a higher bar and we could do a little bit better.
“If somebody had just said, ‘You might want to bring a winter jacket for your grandmother’ … it would have probably made a world of difference for her dignity,” said Mitchell.
His grandmother had been rushed to the hospital Jan. 23 after suffering a bout of delirium. He said her 96-year-old husband has struggled to care for her in recent days and he needed help, said Mitchell.
After arriving at the hospital, his grandmother tested positive for COVID-19 and went on to spend three nights in the emergency room because there were no other beds available, he said.
Hospital says it will investigate
Mitchell has been in touch with LHSC, and received an apology on Twitter and instructions on how to file an official complaint, which he followed through with on Monday morning.
LHSC spokesperson Sara Wilson told CBC: “Our goal at LHSC is to provide exceptional patient-centred care that is compassionate, respectful and safe at every intersection, including when leaving the hospital. We are saddened to hear when individual experiences are not reflective of this, and take these matters seriously.”
Wilson said LHSC will investigate and share what it finds with the hospital’s senior team and the Mitchell family.
“If there are improvements to be made to any process, they will be made,” said Wilson.
“I would expect the hospital, if they get a complaint of horrifically bad care, that they would want to investigate it,” said Donald Pollock, president of the London St. Thomas chapter of CARP, a national advocacy group representing seniors.
“If I were in that job, I would not say, ‘File a report.’ I would say could you please tell me more.
“My experience with that hospital system has been second to none,” Pollock said. “But does it mean when you’ve got a zillion employees, that an understaffed hospital, an overworked hospital, a stressed-out hospital, does not on occasion drop the ball?”
Calls for review of case
The Mitchell family has set up some more supports for the elderly couple now, in the event they need help again.
While Greg Mitchell appreciates staff have been overworked during the pandemic, he’s hopeful LHSC can learn from his grandmother’s story.
“I understand everybody’s really busy in the health-care system, and I appreciate all of the work that they’re doing,” he said. “But there are communication breakdowns occurring.
“I’m hoping that in the short term, maybe there can just be a little reminder to the staff about empathy and trying to put people first.”
He also hopes LHSC will review his grandmother’s case.
“I’m hoping the hospital can just maybe pull some lessons that something like this doesn’t happen again.”
Mitchell also wants governments to better fund hospitals and hire more staff.
London Morning7:35Elderly London woman released from Hospital in only her hospital gown