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Angry Facebook users shocked by incident in hospital ER

Visitors in the waiting room at Health Sciences North say they were told by hospital staff not to approach a half-naked elderly man sitting on the floor in his own filth
Several Sudbury residents posted angry messages to Facebook after an incident in the emergency room recently. People in the waiting room were told by hospital staff to ignore an elderly man sitting half-naked on the floor in his own urine and feces.

Some Sudbury residents have reacted with anger and disappointment to a recent incident (Nov. 13) in the waiting room area of the Emergency Room at Health Sciences North (HSN), where an elderly man was left sitting on the floor, partially undressed, in his own urine and feces.

A photo of the incident was posted to a Facebook page and then subsequently deleted. More than 200 comments were posted by Facebook members who were upset with the incident. 

One person who witnessed the scene  was Sudbury resident Brandon Compton. He said he arrived at the ER to get medical attention for his four-year-old daughter, who had an ear infection.

"So as we walked in the door, I saw a guy, like an older gentleman probably like 70 or 80 years old. And he was lying on the floor on a blanket they had there, full of urine and feces," Compton recalled. 

He said at first he didn't know what to think. But then decided he should offer to help the man. 

"I was very shocked. And we tried to ... well we were going to help him. But they (hospital staff) told us not to touch him."

"Who are they?," Compton was asked.

"The nurses in the emergency unit," he said. 

"They didn't want anyone to touch him. So he was lying on the floor. It was unreal to see," Compton added. He said the man had been wearing a diaper, which somehow was removed. The individual was naked from the waist down. 

"I heard him say that he got dropped off from St. Joe's. And he was there for about a couple hours," Compton added. 

He added that he was not alone as he and his daughter waited to see a physician. He said about 25 other people in the waiting room were also concerned with the time involved before the individual got attention. Compton said he had to wait for nearly an hour before he and his daughter were taken to the emergency treatment area. He said the man was in public view the whole time, despite other citizens offering to help.

"They tried to help him out. But everybody was told not to talk to him, which I don't understand, because he was an elderly man, you know what I mean? It was awful," he said. 

Compton said he shared the story with his mother, who is a nurse.

"She was disgusted," said Compton. 

More than 200 commenters on a Sudbury Facebook page expressed their opinions about the incident.

"We were also there!" wrote another person. "I couldn’t believe my eyes. My boyfriend offered to help him move his wheelchair closer to triage because he hadn’t even been triaged yet. Our health care system is just disgusting!!! I am so glad to see this post so Sudbury can see how HSN treats their patients, especially poor vulnerable patients!"

Other commenters suggested staffing might be an issue, with one writing, "Some have compassion, some don't … our emergency department could use more compassionate staff and maybe more help when there are people in distress … not just let people suffer ... offer blankets, buckets, support ... how about free water … you know just small things to help!"

A similar incident occurred earlier this year. A former Sudbury resident and university professor named Tasha Beads told her story of her visit to the ER, where something similar occurred. Beads, too, was left sitting in her own filth, ignored by emergency room staff. contacted HSN asking for a comment on the incident. HSN Communications manager Jason Turnbull said the hospital was not allowed to comment on anything specific.

"Like all hospitals in Ontario, HSN is unable to comment on specific cases due to patient confidentiality.  What we are able to say is that the hospital takes all complaints very seriously and investigates specific concerns when patients or their families contact HSN’s Patient Relations Office," Turnbull said in an email. 

He added there is a formal procedure for anyone who wishes to express their concerns.

"Patients and families with questions, concerns or comments, should contact the Patient Relations Office by phone at 705-523-7100 x 3737 or by email:".

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Len Gillis

About the Author: Len Gillis

Graduating from the Journalism program at Canadore College in the 1970s, Gillis has spent most of his career reporting on news events across Northern Ontario with several radio, television and newspaper companies. He also spent time as a hardrock miner.
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