A University of Alberta Hospital patient says he spent six days on a gurney wedged between two hospital beds following abdominal and leg surgery last week, leaving him without privacy or even a place to store his clothing.
"The bed I was on in emergency is the same bed I was on for the last six days," Tommy Carruthers told CBC News.
'You're basically lying there staring at the ceiling' - U of A patient Tommy Carruthers
Besides the lack of privacy, the gurney could not be elevated to allow his leg drain to work properly, he said.
He also had no light to read by or television to watch.
"You're basically lying there staring at the ceiling," he said.
Carruthers suffers from Crohn's, an inflammatory bowel disease, and is frail and with trembling hands.
His family began complaining after he had been on the gurney for two days, but failed to get any response from administrators.
Carruthers' daughter-in-law then contacted CBC News after the sixth day.
"I find this to be appalling conditions for someone who is recovering from surgery and whose health is deteriorating," Christin Carruthers said in an email.
"There is also no buzzer for him to contact the nurses, or privacy drapes," she wrote. "Every time he receives an injection, absolutely anyone walking by can see — zero privacy."
When CBC began making calls, Carruthers was moved to a proper bed.
Alberta Health Service's medical director for Edmonton, Dr. David Mador, has apologized to the family, but said the hospital is over capacity and needs to free up space.
Carruthers' placement was part of the over-capacity protocol, developed a few years ago in response to long wait times in the emergency department.
"Those beds are not the greatest in the world, but certainly patients get the same care as any other hospital bed and they're better served than in the emergency department," Mador said.
Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman, who was involved in writing the over-capacity protocol, said it was not supposed to be a long-term solution to overcrowding.
"The over-capacity protocol is a crisis protocol," he said. "It was only intended to be a short-term solution to a crisis."
But now the crisis has been dragging on for years, said Sherman, who said the government should be focusing on better home and long-term care.
“Our hospitals have people who are getting the wrong care, in the wrong place, by the wrong health providers.”
Carruthers now hopes to be out of hospital in a few days, even if his stay has been made more comfortable.