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WRHA, cab industry reps to meet on getting hospital patients home safely

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Representatives from the city’s taxi industry meet for a third time next Tuesday with the Winnipeg Regional health Authority on a new policy that may see cab drivers given more responsibility to see discharged hospital patients arrive home safely.

The meeting will include representatives from Unicity, Duffy’s and Spring taxis services, and officials with the Manitoba Taxicab Board.

Board secretary Jon Wilson said the goal is to have a policy in place by the end of February.

"Everything is moving long quite nicely," Wilson said Thursday.

The meetings between the health authority and the cab industry are the result of two deaths 24 hours apart last month involving elderly patients sent home alone by taxi after being discharged from the Grace Hospital.

David Silver, 78, died Dec. 31 after being dropped off at home by a cab about 1:30 a.m. wearing a coat over his pyjamas and bedroom slippers. He had just been discharged from the Grace emergency room, where he was diagnosed with kidney stones and gallstones and told to see his family doctor.

He had a heart attack moments after the cab pulled away. His housekeeper found him later that day lying a short distance from his front door.

In the other death, Wayne Miller, 62, was discharged from the Grace about 8:25 a.m. Dec. 29. About 9 a.m., residents in the 100 block of Arlington Street discovered him lying unresponsive on the sidewalk. It’s believed he suffered an aneurysm.

Health officials are also investigating the possibility staff at the Grace ignored a safe patient discharge policy brought in four months after the Jan. 28, 2012, death of Heather Brenan, who was sent home in a taxi from Seven Oaks General Hospital and collapsed at her front door. Brenan's death will be the subject of an upcoming provincial inquest.

The discharge guideline says in all cases, patients who require assistance with transportation or to get into their homes and remain there safely must have a named and available support person contacted, confirmed and documented by hospital staff before being discharged.

Health Minister Erin Selby has also said the WRHA is investigating whether the two men were "medically ready" to be released at a time the city was under a deep freeze.

She has also said she wants to see cab drivers would given more responsibility to see discharged patients arrive home safely, such as waiting outside a residence to make sure a discharged patient makes it inside their home.

"We're just talking about formalizing what many of them are already doing -- an extra pair of eyes watching that person get to the front door," Selby has said.

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