Letter: Disappointed with Carman Memorial Hospital
As a former longtime resident of Carman, having served on the town council and Carman Dufferin Fire Department, I still maintain a fond attachment to the town where I spent my formative years, where my father and mother have lived together as man and wife for over 70 years, and my grandfather before that from 1904 until his death in 1973. My namesake uncle Paul, Sergeant George A. Paul Sanders, RCAF, never lived anywhere else until his death overseas in the last Great War in 1942 at the age of 20. As many families do in this area, some with longer-term connections, some with less number of years, there exists a strong sense of pride in the community, a spirit of civic involvement and service.
In that spirit of community service and commitment to others, I am sharing a letter that was sent by E-mail on 26 February, to Carman Memorial Hosptial. I did receive an acknowledgment on 6 March, from the administration of the Carman Memorial Hospital to my letter of 26 February.
Therefore, I still find myself compelled to circulate this letter, in the hope that a public airing and discussion might ultimately benefit everyone in the community. Recent events in our nation at large highlight the importance of transparency and accountability for actions by those vested with authority over us.
This is especially important in the vital area of public healthcare delivery.
It is with a heavy heart that I find that I must write this note to you as a result of what is difficult to discern as anything but unfair and even unprofessional treatment in the recent decision to transfer Barrie and Lucille Sanders from their room together in Carman Hospital to the Lorne Memorial Hospital at Swan Lake, over one hour drive from Carman.
Our family was contacted initially on Thursday 14 February at approximately 1:45 p.m. by a Client Services Manager at the CMH. Neither I nor my brother was available to take the call, and a message was left that she wanted to discuss the paneling process underway for my parents. I was not able to reach her subsequent to the end of her day; which is stated on her voice mail to be 3:15 PM. This particular time she indicated that she would be out of the office until Tuesday 19 February; leaving me less than two hours to reach her prior to her extended weekend. On Tuesday 19 February morning, I placed a call and left a voice message. Concerned as to what information was required, and anxious to provide the same. I contacted (the head nurse) at approximately 9:30 that morning.
Surprisingly and shockingly, (she) proceeded to inform me that there was a plan to transfer Mom and Dad to Lorne Memorial Hospital either that day or the next. The reason given was that acute care beds were in urgent need of being freed up. I sympathized, and my attitude was more understanding and indicative of ‘cooperation’ rather than even a smidgeon of protest. In the course of the conversation, it was stated that “We need to get rid of them”; she later walked that expression back, but the impression remained. She stated that Barrie and Lucille were ’selected’ because there was no one (including family) regularly visiting. As difficult as this was to accept; although one should be able to expect fair treatment, no one expects special treatment, and our family conducted themselves in accordance with these precepts.
However, within days of our parents’ abrupt uproot- ing and relocation to a location strange and unfamiliar to them in the middle of this winter’s cold and bleak season, two 95 year olds who will celebrate 70 years together; each one of those 70 years in Carman, and my father having lived and contributed to Car- man all of his nearly 96 years, (except for the years away serving his country in the last great war); I am made aware by friends from my long-ago childhood that, rather than the room my parents were displaced from now being used for acute care, two other mid-nineties seniors, a couple similar to the one just evicted were placed in that room together.
Now, this came as a hurtful and disappointing revelation that has left all of us believing that the transparency one would expect in dealing with anyone, under any circumstances, let alone a family coping and adjusting to a major passage made necessary by the vicissitudes of very old and fragile age, is sadly and sorely lacking; to the point of unprofessionalism.
In addition to the reason that was given to free up acute care beds, which turned out, at best, to be questionable in its accuracy, the reason was also used that there were no regular visitors is hard to accept as accurate or fair. My two siblings and I have traveled regularly over very long distances; I reside in Ottawa, my sister in Toronto, and my younger brother resides in Calgary; he is currently visiting this date. This would seem to contradict the comment there are no visitations (by family). In fact, one would think that some extra consideration might be given to patients whose family members must travel halfway across this great country to visit. We now find that we have a 2.5-hour return trip if weather permits (my brother attempted to visit last Sunday and had to turn back at Jordan Corner due to poor visibility in a winter whiteout). This is aside from the fact that the family has provided, on our own recognizance, the assistance of a caregiver to help our parents cope. Best attempts made to have her visit several times per week; now this attention, which was always beneficial, is impossible.
These caregivers have known our parents on a close basis for over 6 years, and in many ways, I don’t mind admitting, are probably more beneficial to our parents’ well- being than immediate family. There are also people local in the community who have known our parents in some cases for over a half century; the wonderful Carman Legion visitation committee. All this has been summarily taken away; for reasons that seem to be at best arbitrary, at worst deceptive.
Trust and reputation are those intangible qualities that take great care and effort to build, in an institution or for an individual professional, no matter the rank; it’s even more difficult to restore once lost. There is arbitrary power that is impressive and, at least in the short term, unchallengeable; a stroke of the pen by the overriding power, and poof! You’re gone. But there is also the power of fairness and decency, which, although more deliberate and sedate in coming about, is more powerful in a caring community in the long run. This is a very small, close-knit community; I like to remember the lines of one of the former presidents of the United States; LBJ was from the rural hill country of Texas, with all of his power and glory in Washing-ton D.C., near the end of his life, he said; to paraphrase, “I look forward to returning to the hill country of Texas, where people know if you are sick, and care if you die.” I’ve always thought that about Carman and its good people, and have never before been disappointed. Once trust and a feeling of getting a fair shake is lost in an institution; it may be a slippery slope downwards with many looking through a darker lens at any decision, no matter how objective or subjective; jeopardizing the effectiveness and efficiency of an essential institution in the community. Those with the ultimate responsibility for decisions will find that in a close-knit community that it is not possible to avoid for very long responsibility and repercussions of arbitrary decisions made with little or no transparency in communications with the family, and with what would appear to be questionable justification.
My mother and father have both fallen since being relocated to Lorne Memorial Hospital, my mother having seriously hurt her right wrist; initial X-rays indicating no break; but that is not necessarily accurate; but for certain pain and damage has resulted in her not being able to participate in one of her few pastimes and pleasures; drawing and colouring.
Rural people who have known hardship and hope are fair-minded and I have faith in their judgment to take whatever action will be best for the community at large. They are ultimately the masters of their fate here; what happened to us can happen to others. To think of my mother, who was very briefly acting Matron at the Carman Hospital so long ago in the 1940’s; she inspired the confidence of that wonderful Dr. Cunningham, even though she was only a couple years out of Misericordia Hospital nursing school; ever conduct- ing herself without full professionalism and caring candor is something not easy to fathom, but easier than seeing this terrible travesty that has been visited upon this woman in her final chapter of life.
I would appreciate hearing from anyone that might have undergone a similar situation and any suggestions or recommendations as to how the community might achieve the best results in improving this important matter of patient transfer protocols currently (a copy of which should be made available to the public the CMH administration serves) practiced by the administrators at the Carman Memorial Hospital. Please do not hesitate and feel free to contact me at email@example.com
RE: Bergen’s letters copied
The letter to the editor signed by MP Bergen (March 7/19) is also published by many other MPs across Canada. Word for word, only the signature changes. Isn’t plagiarism an ethical lapse?
RE: March 7 Letter to Council
To: Aaron Wilgosh/The Valley Leader
There is a correction to be made in my letter to the editor of March 7, 2019. I apologize for this. The error is as follows, in the first sentence “The Reeve seems to proudly boast that 2018 was successful year because the average tax increase for farmland in the R.M. was 24.5%. It should have read “the reassessment for this year ended with the following average increases in most property assessments being 24.5% for farmland, etc.”
Regardless, there has still been a significant increase under the watch of this council.