A Winnipeg senior who has waited for days in hospital for skin graft that will allow her leg to begin to heal says she feels caught in a kind of medical limbo.

On Oct. 3, Sandra Jones, 68, was admitted to hospital for a vascular operation on blockages in her lower leg, which had caused an ulcer to form near her Achilles tendon.

After the surgery, Jones was told she would need a plastic surgeon to place a skin graft over the wound in order for it to heal properly.

Sandra Jones

Sandra Jones wants to return home but said she fears infection if she leaves before getting a skin graft to close the open wound on her leg. (Submitted)

Jones was scheduled to have the operation Oct. 11, but that appointment was cancelled at the last minute. Since then, she has been scheduled for surgery eight more times — with each one cancelled after hours of waiting in her Health Sciences Centre hospital bed.

"It's very frustrating. I've got to go all day without food or water," before the scheduled operations, she said.

The director of communications for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said in an email the region understands the frustrations and anxieties of patients like Jones.

"As Manitoba's trauma and major surgical referral centre, HSC Winnipeg must delicately balance how we handle surgeries," said Katherine Fox.

Less urgent procedures are placed on standby until there is an available spot, Fox said in an email. 

'I want to go home'

Unable to return home for fear of infection, Jones said she is confined to her bed or wheelchair, waiting for the surgery that promises to allow her leg to begin to heal in earnest. Nurses at the hospital change her dressings daily.

"What do you do? I'm caught between a rock and a hard place," she said.

If she goes home without the plastic surgery, the wound will take up to eight months to heal. With the skin graft, she was told it would heal in two weeks.

"I can't do nothing until that's done. I'm just sitting here in limbo. Just waiting.… I want it done. I want to go home."

Debbie Dutka

Debbie Dutka said her whole family is frustrated watching her aunt get repeatedly bumped from surgery. (Julianne Runne/CBC)

Jones's niece, Debbie Dutka, is appalled her aunt has had to wait so long for a procedure. She worries the days without food are causing her aunt to weaken, potentially increasing her chances of picking up an infection or illness in hospital.

"Twenty or 21 hours of no food or water going in, except for an IV bag, is not really sufficient enough," she said.

On Saturday, she said her aunt cried — disappointed that for a ninth time, she would not be getting the skin graft.

"Her own doctors are fighting for her. Her nurses are fighting for her. Family is fighting for her. But it's not happening."

While emergency patients are being seen, Dutka said other patients with less urgent needs, like her aunt, are languishing in hospital, waiting for their turn.

"That's not right. That's not health care," she said. "People are waiting two weeks, a month, three months, waiting for surgeries, and it's not right."

As of Saturday afternoon, Jones did not know when she would be next scheduled for her plastic surgery.

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