Ontario family demands answers after patriarch spent 4 days in pain while awaiting surgery

The family of a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., man who shattered his leg Sunday, then spent four days on a stretcher in the hallway of a small-town hospital, demand to know why paramedics took the 76-year-old to a facility without an operating room. 

Ron Prickett, 76, spent days in a stretcher at Wiarton's hospital after shattering leg, had surgery in London

Ron Prickett, 76, had a cycling accident on Sunday that landed him in a Wiarton, Ont., hospital. He spent four days on a stretcher in the hospital's hallway before finally being taken to London for surgery on his shattered leg. The family of the Sault Ste. Marie man wants to know why he was taken to Wiarton in the first place. (Submitted by Liselle Prickett)

The family of a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., man who shattered his leg and then spent four days in the hallway of a small-town hospital demand to know why paramedics took the 76-year-old to a facility without an operating room. 

Ron Prickett broke a femur during a cycling accident in Sauble Beach on Sunday. Paramedics rushed him to Wiarton Hospital, where he was in agony on a stretcher before surgeons in London, Ont., could repair his leg Thursday. 

Now, his daughter, Liselle Prickett, is questioning why her father was brought to the small-town hospital in the first place, instead of Owen Sound, a nearby hospital with five orthopedic surgeons. 

"It's a 10-minute drive distance. We need to find out why he went to Wiarton instead of Owen Sound. It doesn't make any sense to me." 

London was nearest centre for surgery

Bruce County paramedics said it sent Prickett to hospital as directed by the Central Ambulance Communication Centre in London. 

A discarded hospital-issue surgical mask lays on the asphalt on a road outside University Hospital in London, Ont., in 2020. This week, Prickett was at the London Health Sciences Centre to undergo surgery for his shattered leg. (Colin Butler/CBC)

"Our paramedics followed [provincial] protocol and transported this patient to the closest hospital based on his condition at the time of transport," Steve Schaus, director of paramedic services for Bruce County, told CBC News in an email. 

A spokesperson with the Central Ambulance Communication Centre was unavailable Thursday. But provincial protocol says paramedics must take a patient to the nearest health-care facility, where a doctor can decide whether the individual needs a higher level of care at a different facility. 

Mary Margaret Crapper, chief of communications and public affairs for Grey Bruce Health Services, which encompasses both Wiarton and Owen Sound hospitals, said neither facility has the capability to provide the surgery Prickett required. 

"Patients requiring this level of surgery would be waiting (at any of our sites) for a transfer to another facility outside our region," she wrote in an email Thursday. 

"We use a central, provincially run system called Criticall, and they work to find a hospital who can receive the patient as quickly as possible."

Isabel Hayward, executive director of Criticall, said she could not discuss specifics of the case due to privacy reasons. 

"Whoever is caring for the patient, we connect them with the service specialist they need," she said Thursday. "We do not share information on cases." 

CBC News also reached out to officials with Ontario's Ministry of Health to understand why the decision was made, but officials did not respond by publication time Thursday. 

Prickett underwent surgery Thursday at LHSC

Prickett underwent surgery on Thursday morning at London Health Sciences Centre, according to his daughter.

Liselle said while it was unfortunate the family was forced to go to the media to get their patriarch the care he needed, they're glad he spoke out when he did. 

"He's getting a little more attention since he's drawn attention to this. The communication is getting a little bit better and that's part of the problem — when you're left in the dark, it's very frustrating not knowing what's going to happen next." 

She said since her father went public, she's been surprised by the number of people who had their own stories of waiting for care at Ontario hospitals. 

"It's a disaster," Liselle said. "It's worse than we thought it was. Unless you sort of go through it, everyone is an island having their own experience with nobody to connect with.

"We are all suffering."