ER experience shakes faith in health care system


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When Rob Cohen arrived at the Grace Hospital emergency room on Thursday, screaming in pain, he was hoping for relief but was told no doctor was on duty, he and his wife said.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/07/2022 (193 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When Rob Cohen arrived at the Grace Hospital emergency room on Thursday, screaming in pain, he was hoping for relief but was told no doctor was on duty, he and his wife said.

The Cohens’ experience — waiting more than hour for a doctor to arrive to an emergency room in the afternoon on a weekday — is an example of how Manitoba’s health-care system is “broken,” Sandy Cohen, 58, said.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority could not be reached for comment Sunday. Late Monday morning, the WRHA said it had confirmed that there were three doctors on shift in the Grace emergency department on Thursday afternoon.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Rob Cohen, shown with wife Sandy, went to the Grace Hospital emergency room in severe pain but they say it took more than an hour for a doctor to arrive and authorize pain medication.

“While we cannot comment on individual cases, our physicians are experienced, dedicated, hard-working professionals who, despite ongoing challenges in our (emergency departments), are committed to providing compassionate, high-quality care to all our patients,” a WRHA spokesperson said in an email.

Late afternoon Sunday, the wait-time at the Grace’s emergency department was listed at 7.75 hours.

Rob Cohen, 59, was diagnosed with bladder cancer and treated in 2013. After immunotherapy, he has had no reoccurrences since 2015.

In May of this year, doctors found a spot in his bladder, and he went in for a surgery — transurethral resection — to remove it on July 13, after a postponement.

When he came out of his procedure on Wednesday, he was catheterized, Sandy said.

“When he came home, through the night, it would appear that there was probably swelling from the trauma of surgery, and his bladder became blocked, most likely from swelling,” Sandy, a bookkeeper, said.

“He wasn’t able to void (his urine). Because he wasn’t able to void, his bladder became full… his body, his bladder, was spasming, which was causing him horrific pain.”

His urologist told the couple to get to the emergency department.

“The screener that was there at the door said, ‘There’s no doctor on staff’ at that point,” she said.

“She put us through, and he went and immediately sat in the chair where they take his information, and then the woman doing the intake at that point said to the woman doing the vitals and triage, ‘He needs to be seen first.’”

It took more than an hour for a doctor to arrive and eventually authorize the use of opioid pain medications, according to the couple, while Rob Cohen writhed in pain and nurses and health-care aides apologized profusely.

He was discharged at about 7:30 p.m., after narcotic painkillers took effect and he had had an ultrasound.

“I can understand walking into an ER and the doctor is tied up with a critical patients — I totally get that. But walking into an ER and before I get past the screener, being told there’s no doctor on in the ER — what is that?” Sandy Cohen said.

“This government made all these changes, they closed however many ER rooms, and their explanation for that is for efficiency and effectiveness.”

In 2017, the WRHA converted the emergency departments at Victoria and Seven Oaks hospitals to 24/7 urgent care centres, while Concordia’s ER department was converted to an urgent care centre in 2019. The Misericordia Health Centre’s 24-hour urgent care centre was also closed.

That left emergency rooms at the Grace, Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface. At the time, the authority said the move was to streamline and concentrate resources, rather than spread them over multiple sites.

The wait was so excruciating, Rob Cohen said, he sought medical advice at the Grace on how to remove his catheter at home this week so he doesn’t have to return to hospital.

“If I don’t do that, I’m going to sit there and wait, and this thing hurts,” the recent retiree said. “It’s obscene, really.”

Sandy Cohen said she believes people will die needlessly because they can’t access treatment.

“I’m very angry, I’m livid with our medical system. I don’t want anybody I know to be sick and have to be in the hospital or have to access medicine,” Sandy Cohen said.

“It’s not the health-care professionals, it’s the system that our government put in place, and we got to see it up close and personal — for real how bad it is.”

The Cohens said they’d like to see ERs reopen and medical workers given fair contracts.

“Do I want something to happen? Yes, I very much do. Do I have faith our government is going to do it? No, I don’t, I don’t, and it’s really sad,” Sandy Cohen said.

“I have no faith that Manitoba health care’s going to get better.”

One of the Cohens’ two daughters plans to pursue medicine as a career, Sandy Cohen said. They’ve told her to move out of province after she gets her education.

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.


Updated on Monday, July 18, 2022 9:16 AM CDT: Corrects that Concordia’s ER department was converted to an urgent care centre in 2019

Updated on Monday, July 18, 2022 12:01 PM CDT: Adds WRHA statement saying three doctors were on duty.

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