Saskatchewan

Sask. woman says her mom's care got lost in COVID-19 shuffle

Nimegeers says her mom is a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, but not because she died from the virus. Nimegeers said in the commotion surrounding COVID-19, her mom's health got lost in the shuffle. 

The Saskatchewan Health Authority Board says they will be looking into Nimegeers' suggestions

Tillie Barret (centre) died in April. She is pictured here with two of her daughters: Sue Nimegeers (left) and Wendy Haddad (right). (Submitted by Sue Nimegeers)

Tillie Barrett was known around Radville, Sask. for her cinnamon buns. 

"She was a homemaker. She made everyone's life comfortable when she was around," Barrett's daughter Sue Nimegeers said. 

Nimegeers said her mom died April 6 at the age of 89, and is a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic — but not because she died from the virus. Nimegeers said in the commotion surrounding COVID-19, her mom's health got lost in the shuffle. 

Barrett's health started to deteriorate earlier this year. Right when the pandemic hit, she started needing hospital care. She had to be taken to Weyburn, which Nimegeers said took a lot out of her.

"If it hadn't been COVID, we would have had openings at our facility here in town. The ER was closed down, staff was reduced," she said. 

Nimegeers said the three doctors in Radville were called to Weyburn to help with pandemic preparations and ER shifts there. Every time her mom needed to go to the hospital, she had to be taken by ambulance to Weyburn. It's about a forty minute drive each way. 

"Maybe this was her course in life. We'll never know that. But COVID made it 10 times worse on everybody," she said. 

SHA board to follow up

Nimegeers spoke at a Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) board meeting on Friday. Scott Livingstone, CEO of the SHA, said the board has an obligation to follow up on these stories.

"We don't feel good when we don't have a good story and we also empathize with the family as well as follow up and understand what we can change," Livingstone said. 

Livingstone also said they were already in the process of modifying some parts of their visitation policy. 

As for Radville doctors being stationed outside of the city for the time being, Livingstone said there is a doctor during the week "at all times."

"The quote/unquote 'collateral damage' caused by the collective COVID response is something on everybody's mind," Livingstone said. 

A big question Nimegeers has is: who was monitoring her mother? Barrett struggled with low potassium levels and was given supplements. But at the time of her death, Barrett's potassium levels were "way too high" according to Nimegeers.

"So now the questions: who was monitoring that, that they had raised it so much? Was that even being tested? I don't know. We're not doctors. But it makes you wonder."

Barrett's daughter says she hopes the health authority will bring patient and family-centered care back to the forefront. (Submitted by Sue Nimegeers)

Nimegeers said her mission now is to make sure patient and family-centred care doesn't go by the wayside during the pandemic. When her mom was in hospital, only one person was allowed in the room at a time. She said that was traumatizing to not be able to be with even just one other sibling.

Barrett also had dementia and Nimegeers said having someone in the ambulance and someone to stay with her would have helped. She still recognized her children's faces.

"It would have settled mom down a lot. They said she was wandering and very confused," she said. 

Nimegeers said she hopes no other families have to go through what hers did.

"The doctors lost interest in her case because they had a lot going on and I'm not blaming them, it's just how it was," she said. 

"She just got lost in the shuffle."

About the Author

Emily Pasiuk

Reporter/Associate Producer

Emily Pasiuk is a Regina-based reporter for CBC Saskatchewan and an associate producer for The Morning Edition. She has filmed two documentaries, reported at CTV Saskatoon and written for Global Regina. Reach her at emily.pasiuk@cbc.ca.

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