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Discharged senior's death spurs calls for change at Winnipeg hospitals

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A Winnipeg senior who died on his front walk after being discharged from the emergency room has sparked calls for changes to the way Winnipeg hospitals ensure patients, especially elderly ones, get home safely.

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 Grace Hospital's ER, diagnosed with kidney and gallstones and told to see his family doctor, but 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 few feet from his front door in frigid temperatures.

Silver’s death has shocked his family, and triggered an investigation by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA). Silver’s family is asking for new discharge practices to make sure frail, elderly or disabled patients make it home safely after visiting an emergency room.

"It’s a systemic problem," said Miles Pollock, Silver’s nephew. "It’s the middle of the night. It’s minus 40. He’s an old man who’s sick. He’s not dressed to be outside, and a) you send him home and b) you send him home unaccompanied in a taxi."

Lori Lamont, vice-president and chief nursing officer with the WRHA, said the health authority has launched an investigation into the treatment Silver received at the Grace, the circumstances around the discharge and exactly what happened once he arrived home. It could be several more days until the WRHA has the results of the investigation, which could be elevated to a formal critical incident.

"We’re very concerned for Mr. Silver and certainly feel badly for the loss," she said. "The circumstances make the family’s loss even more distressing, when they happen in an unusual way."

Pollock said his 87-year-old mother — Silver’s older sister — is beside herself.

"It makes her crazy to think he was lying outside for 12 to 13 hours," said Pollock.

Staff from the medical examiner’s office told Pollock Silver suffered from an enlarged heart, blocked arteries and high blood pressure, problems Pollock said ought to have been picked up at the Grace. But the medical examiner's office said Silver either died instantly or was unconscious when he hit the ground, meaning he didn’t die of the cold.

That offers some comfort to the family.

MaryAgnes.Welch@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 8:56 PM CST: Fixes typo.

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