Langley, B.C. –
In yet another example of B.C.’s health-care system being at the breaking point, Fraser Health has ordered a review after a patient was left in a hallway overnight while bleeding heavily from an untreated miscarriage.
Sonia Portillo knew she had miscarried, but was surprised by sudden, severe blood loss and wooziness that prompted BCEHS to rush her to Langley Memorial Hospital last week, where she was admitted after waiting an hour or so in the emergency department early in the afternoon.
“I was bleeding through my clothes,” she told CTV News. “I tried to get up to walk and it was no-go, just instantly dizzy, nauseous, and I needed to lay down even to recuperate my breath.”
Several hours passed with nurses checking on her occasionally, she said, but no one brought her pain medication despite increasingly intense cramps and pain; her partner approached the nurse’s station to see if someone could help her that evening.
“I said, ‘Is there anything that you can give her?’ and it was, right away, tense, confrontational,” said Estevan Garcia, who described being dismayed at the volume of blood, drop in blood pressure, and ongoing pain Portillo had been experiencing.
“She was in no condition to advocate for herself.”
Shortly after that, the couple says, a doctor finally arrived to prescribe painkillers, but Garcia was met with hostility by the same staffer when he tried to get Portillo a pillow.
They were ejected from their room shortly after that, leaving the young woman spending the night in a bed in the hallway. The same staff member insisted Garcia leave for the night, even though hospital rules allowed him to stay and Portillo had no way to get help without him there.
FRASER HEALTH RESPONDS
While Fraser Health’s policy prevents them from discussing patient details, even if the patient has given consent and spoken on the record with journalists, the health authority did confirm a review is underway after the couple filed a complaint.
“I take all complaints very seriously and review them thoroughly,” said Dr. Craig Murray, Fraser Health’s director of emergency medicine for the area that includes Langley Memorial Hospital.
An emergency physician himself, he said while miscarriages can be unpredictable, the priority is to provide timely care and pain control, and to monitor the situation, including blood loss.
He acknowledged that while the team at LMH works hard, the facility is extremely busy. When asked if the level of care has changed, he acknowledged critical personnel shortages.
“Staffing challenges are a reality in the workforce right now and it is always difficult to adjust to those changes,” said Murray. “We strive very hard to maintain excellence in health care and provide timely and compassionate care in the emergency department.”
The morning after she’d checked in, the new nursing crew suddenly began doing bloodwork and urgently tending to her needs, Portillo said. She saw a gynecologist by late morning, who was the first person to communicate with her about her medical status and needs.
“(Dr. Ng) was wonderful,” she said. “He was the first person to acknowledge my partner and ask him how he’s doing, because this is something he’s going through as well. He was so compassionate, so clear.”
Portillo had lost three litres of blood by that point and needed a transfusion before she could undergo surgery to remove the fetal tissue – a procedure that lasted 10 minutes and stopped her pain and bleeding.
“It’s clear the health-care system is burdened and I think it’s important to not complain against them but complain for them,” she said, motivated by advocacy on behalf of other pregnant patients she hopes never have to experience a long, painful, confusing situation like she did.
“(Staff are) tired, they’re overworked, they are dealing with crisis all day long and I can see how you can be burnt out and my heart goes out to them,” said Portillo. “But I’m thankful to people who did show that compassion and apologized for what we were going through. Something as simple as that makes a huge difference in care.”