FORTEAU, NL. – A Labrador Straits family are questioning why better services weren’t provided to send their ill 88-year-old mother from St. Anthony hospital back home to Forteau.
On Dec. 7, Evelyn Saulter suffered a heart attack and was battling a severe case of pneumonia.
She was medevac’d out to Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony and remained in care there for two weeks.
On Dec. 21, she was discharged and sent back to Forteau for respite care at the Labrador South Health Centre.
Her children are saying because an ambulance wasn’t used to help bring her back home, her condition has worsened.
They told the Northern Pen they requested an ambulance to take her from the hospital to St. Anthony Airport, as well as to take her from the Labrador Straits airport to the Forteau hospital.
But Labrador-Grenfell Health (LGH) declined this request.
The family say they were told the hospitals needed the ambulances on hold in the event of an emergency.
They claim the organization determined Saulter was fit to travel by shuttle bus, as she was capable of standing with the help of a nurse.
But the family says she could only stand with the assistance of two nurses – not one.
“Every time we were there, she was aided by two nurses,” said daughter Helen Hancock. “She could barely get from the bed to the chair they sat her up in.”
Son Andrew Saulter was present when she departed St. Anthony.
“I said she wasn’t fit to travel like a normal person,” he told the Northern Pen. “She could only stand for about half a minute, she couldn’t walk and she couldn’t do anything for herself.”
Nevertheless, Saulter was placed on a shuttle bus on Dec. 21 before being flown across the Strait of Belle Isle by a commercial flight.
Once in Labrador, she had to be taken by passenger van to the Forteau hospital.
When she was carried to and from the shuttle bus and the passenger van, the family says instead of being placed on a stretcher, she had to be lifted by the shoulders and legs.
As of Jan. 5, she is still suffering from pneumonia and has been confined to her hospital bed ever since.
The family says she is no longer strong enough to stand, even with assistance, or capable of sitting up in a chair.
Saulter’s children believe the difficult trip took a toll on their mother and weakened her further.
And they insist this could have been avoided had an ambulance been utilized.
They also believe she should have been put on the ferry or an air ambulance instead of a regular flight.
Hancock says they knew what would happen based on an earlier precedent.
According to her, her mother had a surgery at the St. Anthony hospital seven years ago.
And when they sent her home then, the same thing happened.
“The trauma from the plane, it set her back at least three weeks,” she said. “I was telling them, ‘this is going to happen to mom (again) if you send her on a regular flight.’”
Hancock worries about other seniors being treated in this manner as well.
“How many more seniors are being treated like this?” she questioned. “How many more who got nobody to talk for them?”
She believes a better program should be in place for seniors, to determine ambulance use on a case-by-case basis.
“Not every senior is the same,” she said. “Each case is different.”
Andrew Saulter claims he has reached out to Lisa Dempster, MHA for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair and Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development, to express his concerns.
He says he hasn’t heard back from her.
Labrador-Grenfell Health released a statement advising the Northern Pen that it was not aware of the concerns expressed by the Saulter family until it received a media inquiry from the Northern Pen.
Labrador-Grenfell Health has been in contact with the family and is in the process of investigating their concerns.
“The Health Authority values all forms of feedback and encourages the public to contact Labrador-Grenfell Health with concerns and questions,” the statement reads.
Correction: Evelyn Saulter was placed in a passenger van from the airport to the Forteau hospital, not a family van.