Families upset by plan to transfer seniors out of Manitoba hospitals

Some family members of seniors who are in hospital in Ashern say the province's COVID-19 plan is forcing their loved ones to be transferred out to another facility hours away from them. The families are fighting the move, saying they have been given little notice with no choice.

Families in Interlake-Eastern say they have no choice, no say in where loved ones are sent

Colin Brown is heartbroken his wife of 60 years is being transferred out of the local hospital in Ashern to a health-care facility over three hours away in Baldur, Man. (Brenda Jonsson)

The families of several seniors in Ashern, Man., are angry and upset over the province's plans to relocate their loved ones. 

Some families have received an unsigned note with no letterhead informing them the province is preparing to see an increase of COVID-19 cases in the community, and has decided to transfer seniors now in hospital to another facility hours away.

In the letter, which was given to Craig Brown by an Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority staff member, it's explained that the moves are being made to free up beds. 

On Monday, Craig, who lives in the community of Ashern-Moosehorn, was told his 80-year-old mother Florence Brown, who has been at Lakeshore General Hospital since August 2020, would be moved in two days to make room in the facility.

Craig assumed his mother would go to a personal care home in nearby Eriksdale or Winnipeg because the local care home is full. Instead he was told his mom, who has lost mobility because of back issues and surgeries, would be transferred to Baldur, Man.

"I am kind of bewildered truthfully. It is three-and-a-half hours from here, it doesn't make sense. Eventually I went from bewilderment to anger because this has pretty much devastated my father," said Brown. 

His 83-year-old father, Colin Brown, would drive to the hospital every day, have lunch with Florence, play cards, give her a goodbye kiss and then drive home, which was about 10 minutes away. He would get up the next morning and do it all again. Now Craig says that precious time will be taken away from both of his parents.

"He is devastated. Just devastated. He said he feels hopeless.He was caring for mom for 10 years before she went in the hospital. He knew a day would be coming when they couldn't be together, but they adjusted," said Craig.

"This wasn't what they dreamed of but they were making the best out of it. Now that is done."

Craig has contacted health officials and politicians — including the health minister — all in an effort to get the decision reversed. 

Senior with dementia to be moved

Angie Thorkelsson has done the same. Her mother, Evelyn Budge, has been at the Ashern hospital for five years because of no availability at the local personal care home. 

Angie was also given 48 hours notice her 91-year-old mother, who has congestive heart failure and dementia, will be transferred out, but Thorkelsson has no idea where to. She got a call Monday morning informing her about the decision.

"It was horrible. I was sick.... I was crying. I said 'no and no.' We are all here. All of her kids. Her whole family is here. That will mentally mix her up," said Thorkelsson. 

"She will get depressed, she usually does during the winter time. She won't even know where she is and she will have no family around her for support,"

Both Thorkelsson and Craig Brown say they know five patients in total who are being transferred out of the Ashern Hospital, located in the community about 170 km northwest of Winnipeg.

There are many more elsewhere in the province. 

According to Shared Health, 24 patients have been transferred to sites outside their home health region as of Wednesday. This includes 14 patients from Winnipeg and 10 from the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority. 

In a written statement to CBC, Shared Health said the transfers are meant to help with the increased pressure placed on the health-care system due to the fourth wave of COVID-19.

It also acknowledges moving to sites in other health regions can be unsettling and disruptive for both patients and their families. Shared Health is encouraging families to discuss their question with the care team or Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority patient concern line.

'I am going to fight"

As far as Thorkelsson is concerned, there is little left to discuss.

"I told them I give you no consent. I give you no consent to move her. None whatsoever," said Thorkelsson.

"I am going to fight. Fight for my mother, put the brakes on this," she said.

Thorkelsson says to keep moving a 91-year-old woman around until a bed is found in a personal care home is inhumane. 

As for Craig, he's worried he has been given no return date to Ashern once his mom is moved out. He doesn't know when or if she will come back home.

"My dad who has been so dedicated for years — that is now being taken from him," Craig said.

"He will go to bed knowing she is 300 plus miles away in her own bed. Now he is only 10 miles away, can give her a kiss and see her in the morning,"

Craig said his dad won't be able to do the round trip every day. He has had knee replacement surgery and can't sit for long periods of time in a car.

"He will be totally exhausted," said Craig. 


Born and raised in Winnipeg, Marianne has always had a passion for seeking the truth. She began her career anchoring and reporting at CKX Brandon. From there she worked in both TV news and current affairs at CBC Saskatoon. For the past 25 years Marianne has worked in Winnipeg, both in radio and television. She was formerly a teacher in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.