Ontario hospital sends man with memory loss to unconfirmed address in cab
Medical staff feeling pressured to release patients early, says hospital union
An Alberta man who suffered serious injuries and memory loss in a motorcycle accident decided to Go Public after being discharged from an Ontario hospital, put into a taxi, and sent to an unverified address without knowing if someone would be there when he arrived.
Naveed Ahmed is from a small community outside Lloydminster. He was visiting Ontario at the time of the accident, and doesn't remember the crash, only waking up in Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga.
"I remember waking up screaming in pain, it was that excruciating. A lot of confusion, not being 100 per cent sure where I am and why I'm here," he said.
Despite having a concussion, a broken ankle, a torn muscle and serious abrasions on his legs and arms, Ahmed was discharged within about seven hours of being taken to the hospital.
His family didn't know where he was. His cellphone was smashed in the accident and he could only remember bits and pieces of information. He also wasn't carrying his Alberta health-care card, but did have his driver's licence.
"They kept trying a couple of different numbers I thought that maybe were my family, or my sibling or my friends' numbers, but none were valid numbers," Ahmed said.
Discharged while still in shock
All Ahmed could remember was an address in Brampton, about a half hour away from the hospital.
"I asked them again if someone could go to the address and inform them. They told me that was out of question," he said.
Ahmed said the hospital discharged him, put him into a taxi and asked that he be taken to the unconfirmed address.
He said he was still in shock from the accident, in a lot of pain and physically unable to walk. In such bad shape, he said, he couldn't sign his own hospital discharge papers or bill.
"I almost felt like they just wanted me out there ... to get me off their hands."
Luckily, the address belonged to his uncle and cousin, who were home when the cab arrived. They had to pick Ahmed up and carry him into the house. Months later, he is still recovering from his injuries.
"I would like [hospital administrators] to review their policy and maybe put some kind of measures in place where they will make sure if a person ends up in the same kind of situation, they don't just ship them out," he said.
In an email to Go Public, Credit Valley Hospital communications adviser Catherine Pringle said the hospital does not comment on specific cases, but the decision to discharge patients is always based on medical reasons never financial.
"If the physician caring for the patient determines that they are stable and do not require admission to hospital, they are cleared for discharge and can return home. Patients are advised when leaving the emergency department that they should return if their condition worsens," she wrote.
Pringle also said it is not uncommon for patients to be referred to outpatient clinics at the hospital for followup care after their visit to the emergency department.
Go Public also asked why staff discharged Ahmed without knowing where they were sending him, and if the situation warranted a review of hospital policy. Those questions were not answered by deadline.
Union blames health-care 'revolving door'
Eric Newstadt, a researcher with Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, which represents 30,000 hospital workers across the province, blames inadequate health-care funding and said hospital workers are feeling pressured to free up beds faster.
According to Newstadt, that's leading to more patients being readmitted later.
"People are being pushed out of hospital before they are ready to leave. It's a revolving door policy — just adds to the net costs of health care and also leads to worsening outcomes," he said.
He points to a report commissioned by the union, titled Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Home The report looks at the experiences of patients and what happens after they are discharged from hospital.
"The patients we've heard from, some of them, suffer unduly at home because they've been discharged too early. But they also suffer long term because of the care they didn't receive before being readmitted," he said.
According to the Canadian Institute for Hospital Information, Ontario, Alberta and B.C. have the highest readmittance rates in the country. But the report doesn't address why those provinces are seeing more patients return to hospital.
A spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of Health denied the union's claim that funding cuts have led to patients being released before they are ready. The ministry said hospital funding has increased 50 per cent from from $11.3 billion in 2003-04 to $17 billion in 2014-15.
That may be true over the last decade, but it's different story in recent years. A CBC News investigation found base funding for Ontario hospitals has remained frozen since 2012 and, according to the province's 2015 budget numbers, future increases are projected to be less than inflation.
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