When nobody cares

So much for our social safety net.

For the past week, I’ve had a front row seat to the incompetence and lack of empathy that lies at the centre of our public health system.

My experience helping my friend Doris, after she broke five bones in her foot last week, has left my faith in our health care system severely shaken.

A short recap. Doris shattered her foot after fainting in the bathroom. After being admitted to the hospital, she waited with a minimum amount of food for three days before she finally had her operation. The surgeon put her foot bones back together with pins that will have to be taken out in six weeks.

She’s been convalescing in the hospital for the last couple of days while her seriously ill husband has had to look after himself at home. This has been difficult on Bob, who says it takes him three hours to make a simple breakfast.

Yesterday, the hospital informed Doris that she had to go home. She has no way of getting groceries or making meals because she is not allowed to walk on her foot for six weeks. A hoarder, she can barely get around her tiny apartment on foot, let alone in a wheelchair.

Neither has close relatives and not many friends. They are also highly embarrassed by the state of their home, so home care is not an option for them.

I am seriously concerned for the couple’s safety and called the hospital to give them background on their lives. My phone call was routed around the hospital. Finally, my call reached a nurse on Doris’ floor. She listened sympathetically and said she’d pass on the information to the social worker.

I am convinced she didn’t bother.

So Scott and I will be picking up Doris and taking her home tomorrow — she says she’ll be sleeping in the hall tonight — and the couple will languish in their sorry little apartment and order food by delivery. We will do what we can, but they need so much care that we know we are over our heads.

I was in tears about this last night, about the fact that health administrators talk the good talk, but in reality, they turn their backs on people who live marginal and secret lives. Even when they are given information by people who care, they treat these people like they are invisible.

I consider myself a strong and vocal advocate but I feel completely helpless to help my friends.

For his part, Scott just shrugs and points out that a lot of our friends’ problems are of their own making. Both lifelong drinkers, they’ve managed to keep their dysfunctional and cluttered life secret despite living in an apartment building that is regularly inspected.

I had hoped that after Doris’ fall, the jig would be up and someone — anyone — in the system could help them.

Apparently not.

Note to self: keep going to the gym and taking vitamins.

Can’t afford a misstep with this uncaring system.


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