The family of an elderly Surrey man has filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court, alleging he was kicked out of his care home — after they complained staff had missed the fact he was gravely ill.
The widow and daughter of Sheldon Feldman say they launched the legal fight to try to improve the quality of residential care for all B.C. seniors.
Pearl and Andrea Feldman are suing Morgan Place, facility physician Dr. Robert Fletcher and Fraser Health, which oversees the care home, over their alleged "failure to … diagnose Mr. Feldman's pneumonia."
And they claim Morgan Place and Fraser Health cancelled the 76-year-old man's bed "as retaliation" for the family advocating on his behalf.
They allege they were told Feldman would no longer be able to return to the facility, just one day after letters outlining their concerns over his treatment were received by Morgan Place and Fraser Health.
The incident occurred in September 2015. Feldman died just over a year later at a different care home in Delta.
'Life was shortened'
The family also claims Feldman suffered a "premature death" as a result of losing his bed. The lawsuit alleges he felt "devastation that he had become homeless."
Although his family says he quickly recovered from a high fever and pneumonia at White Rock's Peace Arch Hospital, he spent more than five months occupying an acute-care bed there, before Fraser Health found him a new care home that was acceptable to the Feldmans.
The family alleges the prolonged hospital stay deprived Feldman of daily physiotherapy he required due to Parkinson's disease. As a result, he "lost mobility and strength … became depressed" and "Mr. Feldman's life was shortened."
His widow says she still chokes up remembering how her husband of almost 56 years was treated.
"The stress, the tears, the unfairness of it, just eats away at us," said Pearl Feldman, 75.
The civil claim seeks unspecified damages for negligence, wrongful death and emotional distress and mental suffering against all three parties, plus breach of contract against Morgan Place and Fraser Health.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
The parties being sued have yet to file their legal response.
According to the lawsuit, Sheldon Feldman moved into a publicly subsidized bed at the Morgan Place residential care facility in June 2014, after his Parkinson's disease made it impossible for him to continue living at home.
The civil claim states that in September 2015 Feldman began having violent full body tremors.,
Despite the family's direct request on Sept. 9, the lawsuit claims "Dr. Fletcher failed to examine Mr. Feldman, and no staff members at Morgan Place examined [him]."
On Sept. 10, family members personally witnessed the severe tremors, noticed Feldman "was sweating profusely and hot to the touch," and insisted an ambulance be called.
Sick senior 'ignored'
The suit claims "staff cautioned the Feldmans about the $80 ambulance charge and attempted to discourage [them] from sending Mr. Feldman to the hospital."
"Staff then told the Feldmans that they were unable to call an ambulance … without the approval of Dr. Fletcher and would fax him," alleged the lawsuit.
When paramedics did arrive, Feldman "had a fever of 104 degrees." At Peace Arch Hospital, he was found to have blood clots in both lungs and pneumonia.
The lawsuit says "the Feldmans were shocked and upset that [he] had been ignored by Dr. Fletcher and the staff at Morgan Place for so long, that they were now being told to prepare themselves for his death."
But as bags of ice brought the fever down, Feldman recovered — and the violent tremors subsided.
Bed cancelled following complaints
The family sent registered letters of complaint [requiring signatures upon receipt] to Morgan Place, Fraser Health and the College of Physicians and Surgeons on Sept. 23.
The lawsuit says Morgan Place signed for its letter Sept. 24.
At 3 p.m. the next day, as Feldman was about to be released from hospital, the civil suit alleges his family received a call from Fraser Health "advising that Mr. Feldman's bed had been cancelled and that Morgan Place was refusing Mr. Feldman's return."
The family maintains they were given until midnight to collect his personal belongings from his room — something his elderly wife was forced to do.
"I said, midnight? She said there's no choice," said Pearl Feldman. "You go there and you take all your stuff. And then that was it."
Fraser Health denies allegations
Repeated calls to Dr. Robert Fletcher by CBC News were not returned. Our request for a comment from Morgan Place was instead referred to Fraser Health.
The health authority says it "empathizes" with the Feldmans, but it denies the family's claims.
"At no time would we ever tell a resident or resident's family that their belongings need to be removed from a facility on the same day," said Fraser Health spokesperson Jacqueline Blackwell.
As for the bigger issue, Blackwell insists Fraser Health "made several efforts to address concerns with the family," but "when it was determined [the Feldmans] didn't want the resident to go back to Morgan Place and didn't want the Morgan Place physician, it was decided to close the bed and find the resident another placement."
In their lawsuit, the family admit they initially wanted Mr. Feldman moved to a different care facility and didn't want Dr. Fletcher to remain his physician, but they claim Fraser Health staff told them Feldman would be returned to Morgan Place — then be put on a transfer list.
They say the sudden change of plan was made without consultation and they were given no time to find a new physician for Feldman.
Fraser Health says it "reviewed this case very thoroughly" and stands by its decision to cancel Feldman's bed.