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- by Rosalie Reese

I am writing to you about a personal experience in the Emergency Department of the Owen Sound Hospital on the evening of March 5, 2023.

My 83-year-old husband was at home experiencing elevated temperature, chills and shaking. As a retired physician he knew that these were symptoms of sepsis – an infection of the blood which can be fatal. This condition requires rapid treatment including blood tests and antibiotics. We lost no time in getting to the hospital Emergency Department. We were greeted by the receptionist and then sent on to be seen by the triage nurse who checked his blood pressure and temperature and sent him to get a urine specimen. The sample showed he did indeed have a urinary tract infection, the likely source of the suspected blood infection.

The nurse sent us to be seated in the waiting room, advising us that it would be a lengthy wait. Six hours later, after my husband was seen and assessed, we went home.

During our wait, we saw there were 6 or 7 people ahead of us. My husband was feeling unable to sit so we pulled ur chairs together and he lay down. I asked the receptionist for a blanket and a pillow and she said 'No',with no explanation given but then she brought my husband a flannel sheet. In frustration and desperation I called a friend who brought us the required items. I have attached a photo I took that evening of my husband stretched out on the chairs with the borrowed pillow and blanket.

Despite his serious condition, nobody came to check on him during our long, long wait. Eventually he was taken to a trauma room and a nurse came in. She checked his temperature and then brought him Tylenol.

After a lengthy wait, a Nurse Practitioner in Training came in. On learning that my husband was a physician, the two of them discussed appropriate treatment. Following this she left and retuned with an Emergency Doctor.

At this point blood tests and a chest x-ray were ordered. By the time the blood samples were taken the shaking and feeling so cold had eased. He was given an antibiotic and sent home with a prescription.

It would seem that a six hour wait is the new norm. It is unconscionable. We would suggest at the very least that a nurse should circulate in the waiting room to check on people's conditions. It is only a matter of time that someone will die waiting.

After that evening my husband spoke with someone who works in that Emergency Department. He explained to us that there is a serious backlog resulting in these long waits. These delays occur when patients who have been seen and need to be admitted are being kept in Emergency because there are no beds available in the hospital. These people are taking up beds and rooms in Emergency, leaving too little space to examine the newcomers. Apparently it is not uncommon for 12 of the 14 beds in Emergency to be filled this way – hence the delays. He also told us that the receptionist could not provide a pillow or blanket because there are no extras in the department.

I imagine it must be difficult for staff to hold on to their sense of caring and compassion under the circumstances. The system is badly broken and I am sure they must be demoralised by the situation they face every day.

My husband faced the same medical situation about 8 years ago, experiencing the same symptoms. At that time he was taken to an exam room and seen by a doctor immediately. Blood work etc. was done and he was admitted to hospital with three antibiotics given via intravenous lines. The contrast between then and now is heartbreaking and a worrisome indication of worse to come.

With our aging population our hospital will continue to face increasing demands for help. It i the time for some of the office spaces, originally intended for patient rooms, to be restored to their original purpose. This would be an economical to solve the space problem. As an alternative to re-opening the offices as patient rooms, consideration could be given to enlarging the Emergency Department. However I expect that choice would be more expensive.

I do understand that at present there are not enough trained nurses and doctors to support more patient rooms. The system is indeed broken and this issue needs to be addressed at every level.

In conclusion, I am encouraged that the Federal government is requiring the Provincial Government to be transparent and thus accountable for the large sums of money that are coming from Ottawa to help fox this broken system.

It is critical that new funding with tax payers' dollars not end up in places for which it was not intended. It is critical that issues of lack of staff and lack of patient beds be addressed immediately.

I face the future fearfully.


This letter was sent to:

Ms. Flewweling, Chair, and Board Members of Grey Bruce Health Services

Garr Sims, President and CEO of Grey Bruce Health Services

Dr. Michael Williams, Chief of Staff, GBHS

The Honourable Sylvia Jones, Minister of Health

Rick Byers, MPP

Alex Ruff, MP

Editor, The Sun Times

Editor, The Hub

Dr. Brian Goldman, CBC, 'White Coat, Black Art'



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