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Niagara Falls
Sunday, February 5, 2023
Letter: Broken leg and a broken system costs patient over $1,000
Bud and Leslie Moulson have chosen to share their experience with the Niagara General Hospital with The Lake Report. Julia Sacco

This letter was sent to Niagara Health’s patient relations specialist, Ontario’s patient ombudsman and area politicians, including Niagara MPP Wayne Gates. A copy also was sent to The Lake Report for publication.

On Dec. 19, I wrote a letter of thanks for the excellent nursing and physio care I received while I was hospitalized from Nov. 4 until Dec. 6 at the Greater Niagara General Hospital. I am now writing with some serious concerns.

Please note, I am an 85-year old man weighing about 200 pounds (this is important to the issues) who suffered a broken leg on Nov. 4. My wife, also a senior, is a petite woman.

TV, internet and telephone service: I was fortunate that new TVs had been installed just prior to my arrival so I received three weeks of free TV.

Then I had to pay Healthhub Patient Engagement Services the obscene amount of $98.23 for five days, plus two days of “free” TV service.

My limited research indicates this company services hospitals across Canada except in New Brunswick.

There is a phone embedded in the monitor, with no handset. With assistance from hospital staff, I tried to use the phone but was unable to do so.

Volume control was insufficient to meet the needs of my hearing deficiency. The telephone service was inaccessible and staff confirmed that I wasn’t the first senior who had this issue.

The only solution was for my wife to purchase a prepaid phone at about $75 (something I no longer use) and pay $20 per month so I could keep in touch with family and friends. The phone is now sitting in my desk drawer.

I was told I could access Netflix but only if I had an account. I was told I could access Google but I still had to paid the hospital $54.18 per month for wi-fi access to my computer.

While I am not fond of buzz words, these charges are really taking advantage of “vulnerable people” who need as much outside contact as possible in order to get well.

A hospital stay is a dismal experience. Imagine it without TV, phone and internet access.

Hospital contracts with this company need to be reviewed and reined in.

Hospital food: It is simply too easy to make jokes about hospital and airline food.

But the stuff I was served was, for the most part, inedible. The smell was enough to put me off and the beige/bland appearance didn’t do much for my failing appetite.

I was given no choices and never had a consultation with a dietitian. I have no doubt the meals are nutritionally sound but only if they are eaten.

The wasted food on the carts going back was a crime. If hospital administrators were served these meals, they would understand the problem patients are facing.

Mealtime could be a highlight in an otherwise dreary day. 

Home care: I will be in a full-length leg splint with limited mobility until Jan. 31.

While there were risks of falling because I still couldn’t bear weight on my leg, I came home at least two weeks early, all thanks to my wife.

We are both very much aware of the bed shortage in Ontario hospitals.

It is difficult to get a handle on how much an average day in hospital costs in Ontario. One site quoted $842 a day. Home care costs $42 a day. 

Other expenses: We had to pay out-of-pocket to rent an overbed table and hospital bed (plus a set-up fee) because these items weren’t covered by the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), which oversees home-care services.

Our own bed is too high and unsafe for transfer without a side rail. This will be about $310. The LHIN did provide a wheelchair, for which I am grateful.

It was recommended that I have an occupational therapist do a home visit upon discharge.

I was advised by my case manager/discharge planner that none was available until January so this visit didn’t happen.

We muddled along, figuring out my limited movements. My wife requested the help of a personal support worker (PSW) twice a week for about 30 minutes each time to safely assist with showering when I am able to do so.

Again, none is available.

I was supposed to have home physio starting Jan. 10. My wife has a call in to St. Elizabeth Healthcare. I hope it starts as soon as I am able to start bearing weight on my leg.

I had to pay for Ontario Patient Transfer to get home and I returned to the hospital fracture clinic on Dec. 20 for an assessment.

Because I can’t bear weight on the injured leg, I was forced to again use  RNR Patient Transfer Services (via Ontario Patient Transfer). The care given by the two attendants was good.

But the cost was almost $500 for 1.5 hours – another obscene gouging of vulnerable people with no options.

Had I stayed in hospital, I wouldn’t have had to pay this. But the worst part was the broken-down old ambulance that was used, rattling and bumping down the road.

And the stretcher I was on had no brakes. At that price, I expect safety, at the very least.

I can’t even share a copy of this letter as I have no mailing address for the service.

Had I stayed in hospital, I would have cost the Ontario government about $29,470 for an additional 35 days until I could start putting weight on my leg.

By my calculations, I saved the province about $30,000 but depleted my own bank account by over $1,000. Thank heavens I saved the TV charge for two weeks.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Respectfully,

Bud and Leslie Moulson
NOTL

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