Dear Ombudsman,

I would like to make a complaint regarding my stay at Bridgepoint Rehabilitation Hospital, 14 St. Matthews Road, Toronto, ON. I feel that my health/pain, safety, and cleanliness were not taken care of while at this facility and therefore my dignity was compromised, as well. Don’t I have a right to this care, since it was clearly stated as something Bridgepoint guarantees to provide in their hospital brochure?

I apologize for the tardiness of my complaint, but only now, 8-weeks after my operation do I feel well enough to correspond.

On Friday morning, June 17th, 2011, I was transferred from Toronto Western Hospital (where my operation took place on June 14, 2011) to convalesce at Bridgepoint Rehab Hospital, by ambulance and stretcher after a total right knee replacement. I had requested to go to Hillcrest Rehabilitation Hospital, but told ‘no’ there was no availability and I must go to Bridgepoint instead. I was supposed to stay until Friday, June 24th, but my stay was so horrible, that I moved earlier to a private respite facility, Seasons in Owen Sound, ON on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011, as soon as they had space there, despite having to pay $99 per day myself versus being covered by OHIP.

Since my leg was swollen twice its size and I was experiencing pain when I arrived, I had not yet been able to walk with a walker or even learned how to use a wheelchair; I could only pivot onto a commode at the end of my bed. Therefore, when I arrived at Bridgepoint, I was completely dependent on the whim of its healthcare workers or stuck in my bed, unable to move. And therein lies my complaint, that I feel I was taken advantage of and ignored by hospital staff while I could not fend for myself; I felt a bit like a prisoner.

Re: Pain/Health: at 5:45pm on my first day (Friday, June 17th) at Bridgepoint, I complained to the evening nurse that I was suffering from a great deal of pain. I asked for pain meds. She laughed at me and informed me that the hospital’s only doctor, Dr. Berger, would return on Monday morning and that I would have to wait until then. I asked to see an on-call doctor and she told me that there was none in a 455-bed hospital. She gave me basic Tylenol, as if I had a headache. Not until Saturday afternoon (the following day), when blood had burst inside my thigh causing my leg to turn dark purple, did I finally receive a visit from an on-call doctor and 2 Oxycodin tablets. I must add that over those 2 days, my blood pressure was so high, that there was concern. It was caused by the pain and stress from the pain that I was enduring. Normally, I have the blood pressure of a teenager. I believe that it was cruel to leave me in pain.

Re: Cleanliness: As I mentioned, I was unable to fend for myself, so I kindly asked the nurse in our ward, Florentine from 7:30am until 10:30am on Saturday, June 18th, to please help me to the shower down the hall, so I could shower myself. She continuously told me ‘no’ that she was too busy and I would have to wait. She also repeated this phrase, when I asked for a small bowl to brush my teeth in bed. When the physiotherapist arrived at 10:15am, I was ashamed and embarrassed. I stated that I could not participate in my exercises until after I had brushed my teeth and bathed. I sat in my dirty nightgown, desperately wanting to get clean for 3hours, but could not. I also was left in the same bed sheets for 3 days (I saw my hair on them) with food crumbs, which caused a rash on my wounded leg. From Saturday until Monday (June 17th-20th), I requested cream to relieve my itchy skin and rash on my operated right leg, but to no avail. Unfortunately, I have no partner, my son teaches in Korea and my friends live in Huntsville, Midland and Owen Sound, ON, so no outsider could come and help me in Toronto and I was truly reliant on hospital care.

Re: Safety: Toilets were far, far down the hall. On Sunday (June 19th), I finally figured out how to use a wheelchair on my own and propelled myself to the toilet and waited in-line at the shower room. However, the hospital hallways were so narrow, with wheelchairs and walkers lining the sides, that I was frightened I might get trapped in the hallway between them, particularly when the food carts were also parked there. What would happen if there was a fire? We would never get out! Once, while I was waiting on a stretcher for an X-ray, I was lined up beside 5 other patients on stretchers in a small room – what a safety hazard! I was panicking because I am somewhat claustrophobic and I could not imagine getting out of the hospital alive, if there was an emergency.

Re: Patient/Client Care: On Saturday morning (June 18th), I left a Voicemail with Patient Care about my concerns and how miserable I was. On Monday morning (June 20th) around 10am, Ms. Julie San Juan, the Patient Care Manager and her assistant came to visit me in my room. When I stated what had gone on all weekend, they apologized and said that everything had worked itself out by now. Not really. I told them that I was leaving earlier than planned because of the lack of care. I suggested that being a Hotel Manager, I would gladly teach a course in Customer Service to their staff. I mentioned that it is not appropriate for a nurse to answer, “I am not your nurse” and “This is not my department” when a patient is stuck in a wheelchair or bed; they should send someone who can help. Twice on Sunday, the phone was disconnected when I pushed my buzzer requesting ice for my swollen knee (this is necessary 5times per day when a patient is recovering from knee replacement). I also suggested that it would be nice if a nurse introduced themselves and asked how our night had been, since that does have some impact on our health. The Patient Care Manager just smiled and said that they are already teaching all this. Really?

I realize that Bridgepoint is building a new hospital next door. I heard the power drills from 7:30am until 3:30pm each weekday and the construction workers were our only view. In the meantime, I suggest that the old rehab hospital be shut down until Bridgepoint can properly take care of its patients.

I would like to be reimbursed for the additional trauma that I had to endure by Bridgepoint’s healthcare workers, on top of a very difficult and painful surgery. I’ve been advised by medical professionals that other than organ transplants, knee replacements are right up there with traumatic recoveries. It didn’t need to be made worse by uncaring hospital staff.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my letter.