Corner Brook woman spent 25 hours in ER overflow waiting for a bed at Western Memorial

Diane Crocker
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CORNER BROOK — A Corner Brook woman is wondering how bad the health-care system is going to get before it gets better, especially if construction of a new hospital is still a few years off.

Marketa Neilson, 72, spent most of last week as a patient at Western Memorial Regional Hospital. An experience that has left her very upset.

She said the care she received there is not the issue and could not say enough about the “excellent” staff.

“I’m not complaining about the care, that’s not it. It’s the system really. It’s the conditions,” she said.

“I’m usually a person that will take this lying down. But this is one time I’m going to say something.”

Neilson, a normally active senior who goes to the gym five days a week, had just gotten over a bout with pneumonia when she took sick with what she thought was an attack of diverticulitis.

After arriving at the emergency room, Neilson underwent some tests and the doctor advised she would be admitted. It looked like the trouble was more related to irritable bowel syndrome than her diverticulitis.

She was hooked up to an intravenous and told she’d be going to the ER load. That’s an area in the emergency department that serves as a holding area for patients waiting for a bed. Neilson said there’s two such areas in the hospital, one capable of holding 10 patients and the other eight.

Neilson said she knew such areas existed, but didn’t know what they were like.

Neilson was brought to the holding area on a stretcher five hours after arriving in emergency.

“When they wheeled me in there I just didn’t have a good feeling,” she said.

She described it as like being in a Third World country.

“That’s what it felt like to me.”

Neilson said there were 10 people in ER area, men and women, with just curtains separating them. Most were on stretchers and there were two people in rooms with isolation signs on the doors.

“The shock came when I found out how long some of these patients had been there,” said Neilson.

Some had been waiting there for three days, five days, a week and she was told later some were there as long as 10 days.

“That really, really bothered me,” she said.

If the wait wasn’t enough, the conditions in the room itself were less than favourable. With just the curtains, Neilson said there was no privacy and she heard things she didn’t want or need to hear.

She never slept and said that would be impossible with so much going on around you and lying on an uncomfortable stretcher.

“I think the most disgusting, deplorable thing was that there was just one bathroom with just a sink and toilet which had to be shared by both men and women. There wasn’t even a shower,” she said.

The only “bright spot” in the situation was the staff, who she said often went beyond the call of duty to relay messages and bring her a phone.

Neilson considers herself one of the lucky ones because after 25 hours in the holding area she was transferred to a room on the first floor

“And then I felt bad that I was going,” she said as other people still had to wait.

Despite being admitted with a medical issue, Neilson was put in a room in the pediatrics unit on the first floor.

Conditions there were not much better as the thermostat in the room was broken and it was freezing all the time.

But again she said the nurses and licensed practical nurses made it bearable.

Organizations: Western Memorial Regional Hospital

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • Lindsay Mugford
    February 07, 2014 - 03:15

    It seems nothing has changed there. My father spent many days in that hospital. The long waiting time would take its toll on anyone. Staff were awesome and went out of their way. Reminds me of the new hospital they have here in Brampton. Staff there are awesome, but Rigor mortis would set in before you were sent to a room and be seen. Brampton Civic is a multi million dollar facility, but is operated based on a third World Countries. The patient unit on the old classic show MASH was 100 times better than the hospital we have here.

  • Astonished
    February 02, 2014 - 21:20

    My family has had similar stories with regards to family members waiting for beds. It's hard on everyone and by witness accounts the staff there are frustrated even more. It's only because of the top notch nursing care that more people haven't complained!! I have also overheard conversations that there are almost a hundred long term care patients at western taking up acute care beds waiting to be placed in long term care homes, but no where for them to go!!! The west coast needs a hospital that functions as a acute care hospital to properly take care of the SICK with decency. And we NEED ...not want, but need more long term care facilities opened NOW!! Get noisy people!! I'm sure that the former Premier and new acting Premier wouldn't want to be that poor lady on a stretcher for days with a horrible bowel problem sharing ONE toilet with 9 other strangers both men and women and people on isolation, not showering for days!!!!! Shameful! If they don't start making more beds now what happens when the baby boomers start hitting long term care age!!! Lets face it people that is literally knocking on our doors!! The near future only looks worse for this situation! Time for ACTION!!

  • Melissa
    February 02, 2014 - 15:22

    I completely understand how Ms. Neilson felt. Last winter I had very severe mental health problems and found myself attending the ER of Western Memorial Hospital more than once. Twice I was sent home because there was no bed available anywhere in the hospital before I was finally admitted on my third visit. I have since learned that if I had been admitted the first time I attended the ER I would have received the treatment I needed for my mental health condition and not deteriorated so far. I am afraid that the plans for the new hospital show less beds rather than more. Especially as the population of western Newfoundland is aging which usually means greater use of the health care system. I want reassurance from our elected officials that the new hospital is going to be suitable for the needs of the people of western Newfoundland for the next 50 years. This means more beds, not less, in general medicine and mental health wards especially.

  • Concerned daughter
    February 02, 2014 - 15:04

    My father is 74 years old and spent a week in the overflow recently. He was brought in by ambulance and turns out he had ammonia. And he also has Parkinson's .we had no way to contact him except through the nice nurses giving him the phone. Anyways this was not his first time spending more then one day in the overflow.

  • Melanie
    February 02, 2014 - 13:32

    It's funny timing, my nan just got out of the hospital today and went through something similar last week, but she was not alert enough to ask the questions this woman has asked. Having spend New Year's Even in the ER all night with her I can attest to the strangeness of this situation. There were people admitted who were sleeping in the ER, and that place is loud and busy all night long with police and ambulances coming and going. I heard some of the cleaning staff talking, and apparently the new hospital is going to be EVEN SMALLER and have even less beds! How does this make any sense?! I left the province for school in 2006 and have to admit with these kind of poor services I will never be back to live. I fear for the health of my family and terminally ill family members as long as this continues. And as a social worker I see the gaps in the system, not enough doctors, specialists that are so overwhelmed the nurses said they refused to meet with my family, despite life-or-death decisions being made. Local government needs to be fixing this, and fast. I don't blame the workers one bit, I blame the people in charge of the system and funding that create these issues.

  • george p b
    February 02, 2014 - 10:45

    Once more we see third world healthcare in action. 'They' have been planning for this hospital since at least 2008, and 'they' are still in the talking stage. Health care should be govt top priority. I personally do not want to hear about theater Cow Head, new rinks, synthetic turf playgrounds, grooming snow trails, Saltos gymnastics, Gerry Byrne cutting ribbons on some project he secured funding for, or anything of this sort. Until health care is fixed.....NL healthcare is an abomination.....