City taxi drivers will be given the task of making sure discharged hospital patients make it home safely, Health Minister Erin Selby said today.
New rules spelling out the responsibilities of cabbies are being drafted by Manitoba Health. The changes come after three patients discharged from hospitals and sent home by taxi died before reaching their doorsteps — two recently and one last year.
"I think it’s clear that when a patient is discharged from hospital and returned by taxi that should include that that patient makes it through the front door safely," Selby said. "My office is working with the WRHA and the other RHAs across the province to ensure that this becomes mandatory.
"It’s common sense that the person gets to the front door in a safe manner."
Cab drivers routinely drive discharged patients home who do not have family members, or whose family members cannot be contacted.
"Clearly, there were gaps. Clearly, there were gaps and we need to address that, and that is what we are doing today," Selby said. "We’re making sure that anybody who is sent home by taxi cab, there will be an onus to make sure that that person gets through the front door safely. It’s what families expect. It’s what I would expect."
WRHA launches critical incident investigation
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority will be launching a "critical incident" investigation into the deaths of the two most recent cases, which took place during "a 24-hour span" around Dec. 31. The cases involved men discharged on separate occasions from the Grace Hospital and sent home by taxi; both died before they reached their front doors.
"We are also looking for answers here," said WRHA president and CEO Arlene Wilgosh. "We are concerned about what has transpired with these two cases. We know that our staff and our physicians are equally concerned. We will be looking for answers. We will be sharing whatever information we have gleaned with the families."
David Silver, 78, died Dec. 31 after being dropped off by a cab at about 1:30 a.m. He’d just been discharged from the emergency room at the Grace Hospital, diagnosed with kidney stones and gallstones and told to see his family doctor. He suffered a heart attack seconds after the cab pulled away. He wasn’t found until much later that day, when his housekeeper discovered him lying a short distance from his front door in frigid temperatures.
WHRA officials confirmed on Friday that another patient also died shortly after leaving Grace Hospital some 24 hours prior to Silver’s death. That man, believed to be elderly (although WHRA did not report his age), had spent at least 24 hours at Grace prior to his release. Officials would not confirm why he was admitted to hospital or the cause of death.
"He was seen and treated at the hospital... for a lengthy period of time," Wilgosh said. "It would be in the 24-hour range. It was not a quick in-and-out. He was thoroughly investigated."
The man was alive when he exited a taxi on Arlington Street, but was later seen lying on the sidewalk by a passing driver, who called 911. The man was deceased by the time emergency personnel arrived "within the hour," WRHA officials said.
The third case, from January 2012, is to be the subject of a provincial inquest. Heather Brenan, 68, was discharged from Seven Oaks Hospital and sent home in a taxi. She got as far as her front doorway, using a walker, before she collapsed; she died the next day.