New Brunswick

Patient stuck in hospital because of extra-mural backlog

According to Horizon Health Network, the Extra Mural Program is accepting only palliative care patients and putting others in need of home medical care on waiting list.

Horizon Health Network says only palliative patients accepted by Extra-Mural Program for next couple of weeks

Ruby Backlund is medically fit to be home, but remains in the Moncton Hospital because the Extra-Mural Program is not taking any new patients. (CBC)

According to Horizon Health Network, the New Brunswick Extra-Mural Program is accepting only palliative care patients and putting all others in need of home medical care on a waiting list.

The program provides health services to people in their homes.

The wait list leaves people such as Ruby Backlund stuck in the hospital, even though she was cleared to leave by her doctor five days ago.

"I couldn't even talk, I was so devastated," said Backlund.

Staffing issues

The Horizon Health Network declined an interview, but sent a statement saying the wait list has been in place since July 4 because of staffing issues due to vacations, unplanned leaves and vacancies it is unable to fill.

Horizon says it expects the wait list to be in place for another two weeks.

Sitting in the shade of a tree at the Moncton Hospital, Backlund said this is the first time she has been outside since last November.

She was hospitalized eight months ago because of complications from gastroparesis, which she says means her stomach doesn't work properly.

"I get dehydrated really fast, so I need an intravenous to sustain that and obviously I get fed internally."

It's awful, it's frustrating.- Ruby Backlund

After such a long stay, Backlund said finding out last Friday that her plans to go home were being put on hold was devastating.

"I'm on the list. Nobody knows how long the list is and nobody knows how long it's going to take to get to the top of the list."

Backlund requires a one hour home visit each week to have her catheter dressing changed and to restock her supplies for an intravenous pump. But with the Extra-Mural Program only taking on palliative care patients, Backlund can't leave the hospital.

"It's awful, it's frustrating."

Medavie taking over

During the last provincial budget, the province announced the Extra-Mural Program will eventually be run by Medavie EMS, a private company. On the company website, Medavie EMS describes itself as the largest provider of Emergency Medical Services in Canada.

The company already runs the paramedic service Ambulance New Brunswick and will also assume responsibility for Telecare. 

Backlund said she's been a regular user of the program for 17 years and this is the first time she's ever had a problem accessing the program.

"If I needed them, whether it was a question on the phone, whether I needed a home visit or whether it was a critical 'come now' ... they were there."

Backlund feels a wait list for the Extra-Mural Program will create a backlog in other parts of the health care system.

"I'm taking up a bed that somebody is waiting down in emergency or somebody worse in a corridor bed, is waiting to get into ... It's infuriating."