Daughter says elderly father ignored, neglected after waiting months for cancer diagnosis
George Myer, 81, was told in September he likely had lung cancer, daughter says, but biopsy still not done
An East Saint Paul, Man., nurse practitioner says she feels frustrated and forgotten as her 81-year-old father faces a lengthy wait for a biopsy on suspected lung cancer, preventing him from accessing treatment or choosing palliative care.
George Myer, 81, had a CT scan and MRI at Winnipeg's Seven Oaks General Hospital on Sept. 13. The scans showed a growth on the upper lobe of his right lung and doctors at the time told him it was likely lung cancer, said his daughter, Kathryn Braun.
Despite the often aggressive pace of the disease, the Winnipeg senior still hasn't had a tissue biopsy to get an official diagnosis, Braun said. In the meantime, he's experienced weakness and extreme pain she believes is cancer-related.
"My dad feels that he is being forgotten about, he's being ignored and neglected," Braun said at a news conference with Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard at the Manitoba Legislature on Tuesday.
"He thinks it's because of his age, and … that they're just kind of writing him off."
Myer stayed at Seven Oaks until Dec. 19, Braun said, when he was discharged and seemed to be doing well at home. But his condition began to slide a few days later and he was brought back to the hospital's emergency room on Christmas Day, extremely weak and in pain.
The senior was left on a stretcher in a hallway at the hospital's emergency room for between 48 and 60 hours, Braun said. During that time, she says her dad missed his medications and wasn't given adequate pain control or repositioned to prevent bedsores.
Myer has been in the hospital ever since and isn't doing well, said Braun, who works casually as a nurse practitioner in Selkirk. Her dad also has diabetes and underlying vascular disease.
"He wants to fight, he wants the tools to fight if he can," she said.
Myer could access palliative care if he refused treatment now, she added, but he doesn't want to do that until he knows more about his illness.
"He is feeling dejected now and frustrated," she said. "He thinks that he is being forgotten about and ignored.… Just one less patient to deal with."
Wait 'unacceptable': Liberal MLA
Since his September scans identified the suspected cancer, Braun said Myer has had multiple appointments delayed or cancelled, including a consultation with a thoracic surgeon that was pushed back two weeks due to transport issues.
A bypass surgery for an unrelated condition was also delayed, she said.
A Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokesperson said the authority is unable to comment on a specific patient's case, due to Manitoba privacy law.
But he said Seven Oaks hospital has been in contact with Myer and his family to review his experience at the emergency department.
The health authority is currently making arrangements to meet with the family to talk about the entire care situation, including the time prior to his current hospital stay.
"[The] health and the well-being of our loved ones is deeply important to all of us, and we empathize with Mr. Myer and his family," the spokesperson wrote in an email.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen said in an email he couldn't address specifics of the matter either, but has been assured the health authority is in contact with the family and is working to ensure Myer gets the care he needs.
"My thoughts are with the family during this difficult time," he wrote.
The provincial Liberal party sent out a news release about Myer's experience on Tuesday.
Gerrard, who is a medical doctor as well as an MLA, called the wait unacceptable. He said the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's current policies require biopsies to be completed within two months of when suspected cancer is identified.
"That tissue diagnosis is absolutely critical for developing a care plan," Gerrard said. "[Myer] doesn't even have a medical oncologist guiding this through, because there is not a tissue diagnosis."
Braun said the experience has been hard on the family.
"We're devastated," she said. "It's hard to see."
With files from Laura Glowacki