A Bay Bulls man who fought for years to get modifications approved for his home to make it wheelchair accessible is still waiting for the work to begin, months after signing an agreement to have it done.
Pat Dunphy, who has a spinal injury, says he can’t get any answers from officials with the Workplace, Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC).
"If I continue to fall, I could end up paralyzed from the neck down or dead — one way or another," Dunphy told CBC Investigates.
Dunphy was hurt nearly two decades ago while he was employed at Bull Arm.
In 1995, a hatch and pieces of rebar fell on Dunphy's head while he was working.
He's been on workers’ compensation ever since, and his condition is now deteriorating.
The narrow hallways in his home mean Dunphy needs to get off his motorized wheelchair and use a cane to get around.
Dunphy’s legs can give out without notice, and he has seizures. A fall, he says, could be fatal.
He shared with CBC Investigates a file thick with medical reports and correspondence from his doctors and WHSCC officials outlining the severity of his situation.
WHSCC officials declined interview requests, saying they would not speak about the situation even though Dunphy consented and signed a waiver giving permission.
Cost of renovations can be covered
Documents show that Dunphy has been fighting for years to get renovations done to his home to make it more accessible.
His home was assessed in late 2011. In early 2012, WHSCC offered to do $21,000 worth of work to address the problems.
The WHSCC operations manual confirms that “the cost of home modifications are covered by the commission where a worker, owing to the effects of a permanent and significant work injury, experiences permanent access barriers within his or her home,” usually when a wheelchair or other mobility aids become necessary.
The commission will only make those modifications on a “one-time only basis.”
The “limited modifications” offered by WHSCC in 2012 were not enough, Dunphy said in his appeal of the decision.
Last year, a new estimate for the work came in — this time, $60,000. Dunphy and his wife Kim signed off on the agreement in December.
But no work has begun, and the Dunphys say they don’t know why.
"Now they're saying that they're waiting to get the specifications for the tender,” Kim Dunphy said.
She stresses the severity of her husband’s condition.
"The part of his spine that's damaged now is the part that controls the diaphragm and the breathing, and if Pat should fall, God forbid, if he falls a certain way, he will smother to death,” she said.
But the wait continues.
'I believe, my opinion is, they're waiting for Pat to fall and die so they will be off the hook.' - Kim Dunphy
"Workers comp are not reading the letters, or we know they're receiving them because they're coming on the files we're getting. Whether they're disregarding them, or I don't know exactly what they're looking for. I believe, my opinion is, they're waiting for Pat to fall and die so they will be off the hook."
Pat Dunphy says the clock is ticking — each day without his wheelchair, there's a chance he could fall.
And with his health on a downward slope, he says it's now or never.
"I'm not looking for a fortune, I just want to have a half-decent quality of life so I can actually move around,” he said.
“I don't care about anything else. If anything I hope that this will help someone else out, even if they don't do anything with me."