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Injured, frail 94-year-old told to take taxi to Burnaby hospital
VANCOUVER -- A retired fire captain has lodged formal complaints against paramedics who told him to take his injured 94-year-old mother to the nearest hospital in the same taxi where she’d been injured.
Marty Evans recently received a response from the Patient Care Quality Office of the Provincial Health Services Authority after his encounter with paramedics on Thanksgiving, when his frail mother fell backwards in her wheelchair after it was improperly secured in a taxi.
"She's bedridden now. She broke her back three years ago, and just prior to this accident she'd broken her hip and her shoulder," explained Evans. "I've done this professionally for 26 years. I'm a retired fire captain. I'm very calm at calls, but when it's your own mother, and she's screaming in pain, you get pretty excited pretty quickly."
Evans said Burnaby Fire Rescue were first on the scene at Kingsway and Willingdon Avenue but didn’t want to risk moving Phyllis Evans. But he was stunned when paramedics arrived and advised him to take her to Burnaby Hospital in the taxi since she was already in a wheelchair and the ambulances couldn’t accommodate the wheelchair.
"When you request an ambulance, it's not up to them to argue and say no, we're not going to do it," he said. "I know it's shift change, it's Thanksgiving, we all have dinners – but they have a job to do, and that's get my mom loaded carefully, properly and get her to the hospital."
Evans said he finally convinced the paramedics to take her to the hospital but when he arrived and nurses directed him to his mother’s bed, one of the two paramedics demanded he leave and allegedly called over Mounties who were in the emergency lobby on an unrelated call.
"(The paramedic) very aggressively said 'you, get out of here.' But my mom's got memory issues, she's going deaf, going blind so she doesn't know where she lives and I have to give that information for her," said Evans.
The response from the PCQO apologized for Evans’ "negative experience and any challenges in communication" but said the office spoke with the paramedics involved who insist the RCMP were the ones to offer help if it was needed. It also points out Emergency Health Services' policy is that wheelchairs aren’t typically transported in ambulances because there’s no way of securing them.
It makes no mention of the paramedic’s alleged efforts to remove Evans from his mother’s bedside, and officials were not able to answer questions around that clash when asked by CTV News. They reiterated that as per the written response to Evans, they believe "the patient was cared for and transported to hospital as per treatment guidelines."
B.C.'s seniors advocate weighs in
The seniors advocate for B.C. said it’s not uncommon to hear that family members are brushed aside by health care practitioners, though she said many are very aware of the help they can offer in a time of panic when cognitively impaired patients may not be able to communicate.
"We need to be turning to those family members and listening to them and welcoming what they're going to tell us about their loved one," said Isobel Mackenzie. "What was their condition before the accident? What medications are they on? What should we be looking for? We're not going to know any of that if we don't listen to the family members and if we don't know that, we're not giving the best of care to that patient."
While she wasn’t there to observe the interactions between Evans and the paramedic, Mackenzie is concerned with the possibility a first responder didn’t do all he could to defuse a tense encounter.
"This could be a situation where emotions run high, but when you're the professional and you are acting in your role as the professional care provider, you are trained and you would be expected to de-escalate and be calm in a situation recognizing that those around you might not be calm and realize the reasons for that," she pointed out.
While Evans has power of attorney over his mother and pointed that out to officials, Mackenzie points out that only covers financial matters and a representation agreement is the best documentation to verify that someone other than the patient has authorization to make decisions about their health.
Not giving up
Evans isn’t happy with what he considers a cursory investigation of his complaint, with only the paramedics involved interviewed.
"They don’t really do an investigation," he said. "They threw some paint on a pig and they're trying to sell it to me as a pony. That's not right."
PHSA said their PCQO reviews have no resemblance to police investigations and only require the people directly involved be interviewed. That doesn’t sit well with Evans, who plans to take his complaint to the next level.
As for Phyllis, she wasn’t seriously injured in the incident, and doesn’t remember a thing about that chaotic night, nor the Thanksgiving dinner she missed.