I am writing this letter to report the shocking and appalling treatment my eighty year old Father (Pat Hegarty) and I received at the hands of the emergency staff at The Greater Niagara General Hospital on the evening of July 23rd, 2010 . Upon entering the hospital at approximately 7:45pm, until we left at 1:45am, we were treated with contempt, rudeness, neglect, and an overall lack of compassion and professionalism and due respect . Without question, the worst experience I have ever had in what is supposed to be a professional environment. We were failed and repeatedly neglected in our time of urgent medical need.
At 4:09 pm on Friday July 23rd, I received a call from my Father’s Physician Dr.Che in Fort Erie. He informed me that my Father was in his office, and after examining him, he had concluded that my father had an Aortic Aneurysm that needed immediate attention. He said that my Father had gone to see him after complaining of a severe ache in his lower left abdominal area. I knew for dad to go to the Doctors he must have been feeling very ill. He is an extremely fit and active senior who lives alone, continues to work and has rarely had the need over the years to see a Doctor. So I knew, without question that it was serious. I talk with my Father everyday and visit at least on a weekly basis. We are extremely close.
Dr. Che directed that a CAT scan needed to be done as soon as possible. He had arranged with the Greater Niagara General Hospital to do a cat scan the following morning at 9:00am on Saturday July 24th. We agreed that my father would be admitted to the Fort Erie hospital overnight for observation. I would take him in the morning for his scan. My partner John and I immediately left our home in Niagara-on-the-Lake to meet with Dr. Che at his office in Fort Erie. After talking about the seriousness of his condition and the necessity of prompt action on this matter, we took Dad over to Fort Erie Hospital and had him admitted for an overnight stay. During dinner, Dr. Che called to advise that he had spoken with the emergency room Doctor. at the Greater Niagara General Hospital, and they had agreed, because of the urgent nature of the aneurysm, to do the scan that evening. I offered to take Dad there myself to save time. We were told by the Fort Erie nursing staff that everything they needed to know at the other end was in the paperwork and to hand it in at the front desk in emergency.I was advised dad would be taken in right away. Well that’s not even close to what happened. The hours that followed were nothing short of a nightmare that could have cost my Father his life.
Upon our arrival at the Greater Niagara General Hospital at approximately 7:30 PM, we went directly to the registration desk. I explained the urgency of the situation to the woman, who proceeded to glance at the paperwork, and offhandedly said to go wait in line like everybody else. I explained again what we had been told prior to leaving the Fort Erie Hospital regarding the paperwork and the urgency of the situation. This time she stood up and waved her finger at me and slowly and sarcastically began to tell me that “she didn’t care what the paperwork said, we had to go to triage like everyone else”, all the while sneering at me. I again repeated that we were sent there on an urgent basis by my Father’s Physician, with this paperwork for the cat scan to be done immediately because my Father had what was thought to be an very large Aortic Aneurysm. She pointed away and rudely said ” go to triage”. I then asked for her name, she refused to give it and just kept repeating, go to triage. I asked her a total of eight times for her name, telling her I was going to report her because she was rude and unprofessional. She refused each time to give me her name. I told her that she was obligated by law to tell me her name. She still refused. My Father was very upset at this point. I asked her once again for her name. She grabbed a piece of paper and printed her first name (Jen) in bold, black magic marker and shoved it towards me telling us now to sit in the waiting room. We did. A few minutes later she called to me saying “Honey go to triage”. I responded to her by replying “Don’t you ever honey me”. The nurse in triage was very professional, as was the woman who properly registered us, as well as the technician who took blood samples from my Father.
We were eventually brought into an examination room. At 9:00pm a nurse by the name of Taylor informed us that Dad’s blood work came back with antibodies and that they had to send it out to another lab, but that when the results were in the Doctor would be in to talk to Dad about it. I asked when he was going to get the cat scan. That was what we were here for. She said that “the Doctor”. would decide whether Dad would get a scan or not. I said he will get one because we were sent here on an emergency basis because of a suspected Aortic Aneurysm. She said it wasn’t up to her, the Doctor would decide.
At 10:30pm I went to the nurses station to inquire when the imaging department closed. I thought it was at midnight. They told me that it really didn’t close, they called in the technicians and radiologists when necessary. I told them I was relieved because it was late and I was worried my Father wouldn’t get in on time. Nurse Taylor was going by and said we were next in line to see the Doctor. At 11:15pm nurse Taylor came in and proceeded to turn out the lights in our examination room. I asked her why she was doing that, and she replied “so your Father can sleep”. I said he hasn’t had his cat scan yet, what were the odds it would be done?”. She said “not tonight by the looks of it”. At that point I stood up and said I wanted to speak with the Doctor. She said I could not he was with a patient. I said “you told us we were next almost an hour ago, why hasn’t the Doctor seen my Father yet?” She said he was seeing people who were considered more of a priority”. I repeated that we had been sent hours ago as an urgent priority, a possible Aortic Aneurysm, which by the way you can see bulging out of his belly. I told her we weren’t leaving until the cat scan was done. She waved her hand at me, as if in dismissal, and said “I’ve had it with you”. I asked who could I speak with if the Doctor is not available. She said, the charge nurse, but she’s busy. I told her that my Father was a person who never complained, ever. If he was there, it was serious. I insisted on speaking with someone in authority, so she reluctantly went to talk with the charge nurse. She returned and said the charge nurse was too busy to speak with me but that I had been misinformed by Fort Erie and my Father’s Doctor, and that it was unlikely that I was going to get the cat scan done as promised”.
To say that I was upset is an understatement. That these pompous, aggressive desensitized people in a position to play god with my fathers life had decided that an original urgent request made and agreed upon by two physicians, was going to be ignored and disregarded was completely incomprehensible to me. Totally unacceptable. My Father is not a number. He is a human being who should be treated as such. Nurse Taylor was very rude and aggressive and made it clear that she did not want to deal with my concerns regarding my Father. I told her that my Father’s wife was a patient here three years ago. She had had a brain stem stroke after her blood thickened while undergoing chemotherapy for cervical cancer. She was brought to The Greater Niagara General Hospital by ambulance from Fort Erie, in a coma. When she awoke from the coma she had contracted three hospital viruses, C-Difficile, MRSA & VRE. She did not have them prior to her stay at that hospital. My 49 year old brother came to visit her while she was in the coma, and contracted MRSA, which killed him a week later. Doreen, my Fathers wife died 8 months later. I told nurse Taylor that there was no way this hospital was going to make another statistic out of my Father. My Father was getting the cat scan, as was requested tonight. She dismissed me again so I asked where was the charge nurse. She pointed to the office at the end of the nurses station and walked away.
I stood for several minutes in the doorway being ignored before I spoke up. I said “Excuse me, who is the charge nurse?”. Charge nurse Lucy rudely said ” I am, WHAT!” I said I would like to know when my Father will be getting the cat scan done?” She said I was misinformed in Fort Erie and that it wouldn’t be done tonight. I said “We are not leaving this hospital until the scan is done and it will be done tonight. That is why we were sent here from Fort Erie with the paperwork. It is an emergency. The other charge nurse Jackie, without even turning and looking at me, said again in a rude, aggressive tone that our Doctor will decide IF he gets a scan.” I said “He will get a scan tonight.” Charge Nurse Lucy shouted at me to get out and get to my room and sit and wait until the Doctor can see me. I was standing in the nurse station doorway the entire time. I was never actually in the room.I said I’ll go when they tell me when my Father was going to get his scan. I did not raise my voice, or yell as she did. She once again yelled at me telling me “to go to my room and sit down. I am talking about other patients and I don’t want you to hear what I’m saying”. I told her that this was the most unprofessional hospital that I had ever been to and that she had absolutely no class”. She was pure nasty. As I walked down the hall I saw her pick up a phone and start talking. A moment later I saw a security guard approach the nursing station. He watched me the entire time from the nursing station as I stood in the doorway of our room. My Father was extremely upset and concerned at this point.
About fifteen minutes later Nurse Taylor walked down the hall towards us with a wheel chair. She informed my Father that they were taking him for an ultra sound. He said “Am I not getting the cat scan?” She repeated that “the Doctor will decide if you need one”. We were escorted to the ultra sound room by the security guard and Dr. Berliner. It wasn’t long before Dr. Berliner said as the image appeared on the screen that it was a “HUGE aneurysm, and that he most definitely would require a scan”. I was relieved and angry at the same time. I am not a fool. I was advised hours earlier how serious my father’s condition was. We then went back to a different room to get my Father prepared for the scan. I had been taking notes the entire time the events were unfolding. At this time Charge Nurse Lucy approached me with a piece of paper in her hand. She handed it to me saying, “I know you are going to report me, so I’m giving you this”. On the paper was the name Dan Belford, his phone number and extension.This name meant nothing to me. I told her that without question I was going to report her. That she was rude and unprofessional, and that this was the worst hospital with the most unprofessional staff I have ever seen. I told her I would never set foot in this hospital again and I would tell everyone I know the horrible treatment we received while there. She said she wanted to tell me her side of the story. I said I didn’t want to hear it. She had no time to listen to me before, I had no time for her now. At 11:56pm they checked dad’s blood pressure. It was 190/84. At 12:11am the nurse finally took my Father for the emergency scan we had tried to get hours earlier. At 12:28 am my Father returned from having the scan. At 1:15am Dr. Berliner returned with the results of the cat scan. The Aortic aneurysm was 7.8 centimeters, and it was critical to have it operated on in the next 2-3 weeks. I was concerned with the length of time. He was contacting a St.Catharines vascular surgeon. I requested a surgeon in Hamilton. He said he could put the request in but there is always the possibility of it being turned down. I repeated I wanted it done in Hamilton. We arrived back in Fort Erie at 2:30am. Both of us were totally exhausted both mentally and physically. It was a horrifying experience. There was no logical or justifiable reason for our ill treatment. Had the hospital staff given the referring doctor and my seriously ill father the respect due ,and reasonably expected from a public hospital the whole situation could and should have been avoided. My father’s life was put in jeopardy by disinterested and arrogant nursing staff. We left with the impression we were an unfortunate inconvenience not needy patients.
On Monday I received a message that we were to meet with the surgeon in Hamilton the next morning (July 27th). Tuesday morning we met with Dr. Mosakoski, who within minutes of looking at the CAT scan said in an angry voice “Why didn’t they contact me Friday!!”. I explained briefly what happened and she said it was a good thing I insisted on the scan getting done. It could have ruptured at any moment and my father would be dead. The aneurysm was huge. She said the surgery had to be done that afternoon.
She spent twenty five minutes on the phone getting my Father a bed at St. Josephs in Hamilton. She was incredible and I am so grateful that she took the time and interest in my Father, because I have no doubt it saved his life.She cared. After the surgery, John recounted to her what had happened at the Niagara hospital, she said “Well,thank god you pushed them to do it”.
Our experience at The Greater Niagara General Hospital was a nightmare. What a difference at St. Joseph’s!. From the moment we walked through those doors until the time I took my father home this past Wednesday after his emergency surgery July 27th, we were treated with respect and courtesy. We felt my father was safe and in competent and caring hands. Not so in Niagara. The Doctors were wonderful and the nurses were professional and caring. I walked in completely disillusioned and deflated after my experience at the Greater Niagara General Hospital.That changed through old fashioned care, compassion, kindness and obvious competence and professionalism.
I believe had I not pressured the staff at The Greater Niagara General Hospital to do that cat scan, my father would not be here. One of the Doctors at St. Joseph’s said he was a ticking time bomb. I wish to file an official complaint against all parties involved on the evening of July 23rd. The list is as follows: Jen at the front desk, Nurse Taylor, Charge Nurse’s Lucy and Jackie. These people were all in the emergency department. I wish to be informed and have a say as to how this situation is handled and what disciplinary action will follow. What right do these so called care givers have to play God? What right do they have to play Russian roulette with someones life by choosing to ignore urgent orders from a consulting doctor?
In 1859 Florence Nightingale was quoted as saying “It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital that it should do the sick no harm”. How prophetic and how very sad at the same time. She fought valiantly for years to implement laws that would protect the patient and to establish standards for nursing that gained them universal respect.I wonder how she would feel were she here today witnessing the deplorable conditions and care in a local hospital over 150 years later. After witnessing the deaths of more soldiers from infections in hospital over battle wounds, she tirelessly fought to implement laws that would make good hygiene and cleaning practices a priority in hospitals. All intended for the good of the patient. I have lost too many loved ones as a result of sloppy hospital practices. These people no longer have a voice. They became a statistic. How many more people have lost their lives because they have not had anyone to advocate on their behalf? I was not going to allow history to repeat itself with my Father. He is far to valuable to me and many others to become just another statistic.
I would like confirmation that this letter was received and my wishes acknowledged accordingly. I will pursue this tirelessly until I am satisfied with the outcome.