A Winnipeg man says staff at Seven Oaks General Hospital neglected his wife while she was a patient, and her stay ended up being almost six months long after she broke her leg there.
George Kuffner said he wants to know how Cleo, his wife of 57 years, could have been injured in a place where she was supposed to receive quality care in a safe setting.
“It makes me feel bad for the simple reason that my wife has lost her walking because of them,” he said, sobbing, in an interview with CBC News.
Cleo Kuffner, 78, was admitted to Seven Oaks on Nov. 30, 2012, because she had pneumonia. She came home last week after a six-month stay.
Cleo has dementia, needs an oxygen tank to breathe and, before she broke her leg, needed assistance with walking.
But as a result of the broken leg, she cannot walk at all anymore, her husband said.
“I could go [anywhere] with her, but now I can’t. Why? Because she’s got no strength in that leg. That’s what upsets me,” he said.
Kuffner has filed a complaint with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
While in hospital, Cleo Kuffner had a call bell to use when she needed help going to the bathroom, her husband said.
The nurses were supposed to take her to the washroom every two hours, but George Kuffner said that didn’t always happen.
“She’d have to ring half a dozen times to go to the bathroom,” he said.
Kuffner said on one occasion, he and Cleo rang the call bell numerous times as they waited an hour for someone to help her.
Eventually, a staff member showed up and claimed that Cleo had gone to the bathroom 10 minutes earlier, he said.
“I said she didn’t,” Kuffner said. “I said, ‘I’ve been sitting here … she never went [anywhere].'”
Furthermore, Kuffner said his wife was often told by nurses to use a diaper.
“They let her lay in her own stool,” he said.
Kuffner said during one visit in January, he noticed a large bruise near Cleo’s ankle.
“It was black. I called the nurse in. I said, ‘Can you tell me what this is?’ She said, ‘Oh, she must have got a bang somewhere. It’s just a bruise.’ I said, ‘A bruise?'” he said.
An X-ray revealed that Cleo’s leg was broken in two places above the ankle. There were fractures in her tibia and fibula.
“There is no way somebody could break a foot in two places by just falling,” he said.
“If the ankle would have [broken], I could understand that, maybe, because they were weak and broken before…. But why up here?”
Kuffner said he believes his wife fell while trying to go to the washroom by herself.
After demanding answers, Kuffner said staff eventually told him it looked like Cleo had a “controlled fall,” in which nurses would have been holding her as she fell down.
But Kuffner said given the extent of the injuries, he doesn’t believe a nurse would have been around when his wife fell.
The broken leg forced Cleo Kuffner to stay off her feet for 7½ weeks.
When hospital staff removed her cast, they found a hole on the bottom of her foot. The cast had not been fitted properly and there wasn’t enough padding in that spot, causing the skin to tear.
While George Kuffner had good things to say about some of the nurses who cared for his wife, as well as the home care they have received. He said their ordeal has taken its toll on them.
In a statement to CBC News, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it is investigating Kuffner’s concerns and has apologized.
Hospital officials contacted Kuffner when he raised concerns early in Cleo’s stay and “identified some gaps in care and put in place a plan to address them,” the WHRA said.
That plan included moving Cleo to another unit, with different staff, while she was in hospital, according to the health authority.
“Seven Oaks takes concerns such as those raised by Mr. Kuffner very seriously because they do not meet their expectations that staff will provide safe and effective care to all their patients,” the WRHA’s statement read in part.
“An investigation around the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Kuffner’s fall … is still ongoing. When it is complete, hospital officials will meet with Mr. Kuffner again.”
The health authority added that Kuffner’s case has been referred to the Protection of Persons in Care Office.
Kuffner said he believes Seven Oaks is understaffed, and he wants more nurses brought in to provide a proper level of care.
“When you have 18 to 19 patients for two people, that’s too much. They can’t do it. It’s impossible,” he said.
“All I’m blaming is the system because there’s more people that are getting older everyday, and what’s going to happen? They’re going to put them in [a] geriatric ward and wait until they die. Once you pass 70, forget it. Nobody cares about you.”