Thunder Bay woman files accessibility complaint to city hospital

A patient at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has filed an accessibility complaint with the hospital over a lack of power doors that prevent her from entering certain areas on her own.

Lack of power door forces Thunder Bay woman to file accessibility complaint to hospital

Tracy Hurlbert says she feels like a "first class patient" now that their is a power door leading into the Thunder Bay hospital's courtyard garden. (Tracy Hurlbert)

A patient at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has filed an accessibility complaint with the hospital.

Tracy Hurlbert, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a motorized wheelchair, said that the hospital's multi-faith centre and the courtyard gardens can't be properly accessed by people in wheelchairs.

"It does feel like first and second class, in some ways, and I know it's not meant to be that way, but when you're building a hospital, you've got to remember that people who are normally able-bodied aren't going to be able-bodied either," said Hurlbert.

Tracy Hurlbert recorded being trapped in the courtyard on her phone. You can watch the video on her Facebook here. Note that CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.

The doors that lead to the courtyard do not have push-button operation, making it impossible for her to enter the space where patients typically go to relax on their own.

"It's kind of nice to go out there and reflect on things, and they've got beautiful flowers and trees, and there's some birdhouses there, and other people sitting there," said Hurlbert.

Hurlbert said one day, someone let her into the gardens before she realized the problem.  She said she couldn't get back inside the hospital, and was forced to bang on a window to get someone's attention.

The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has installed a power door to its courtyard garden, making the garden more accessible to those in wheelchairs. (CBC)

Chisholm Pothier, vice-president of communications for the hospital, acknowledged that there is a problem but said the doors do meet provincial regulations, as they are not considered exits.

He added that unfortunately the hospital has many competing priorities.

"Next year we're going to be looking at a deficit. We have a finite amount of money, and we have to make decisions, so is this perfect? Nope, not at all," Pothier said.

Pothier said there is another barrier-free outdoor area off the cafeteria, but Hurlbert said it just has a few trees and a table.

Hurlbert's complaint will go to the hospital's accessibility committee, which will then recommend whether or not to prioritize powering the doors leading to the gardens and multi-faith centre.

But Hurlbert said there shouldn't be a need for renovations now, as the hospital should have been fully accessible in the first place.

"When businesses are building, actually ask people with disabilities what we need and go forward with that. Don't just assume that because you built it to code, it's right," Hurlbert said.  

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