Canadian couple details recent nightmare at state-run QEH
In light of what they describe as a “horrifying” 15-hour ordeal in the Accident & Emergency Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) last month, a traumatized Canadian couple is appealing to Barbadian authorities to take immediate steps to improve patient care at the state-run health care institution.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY from his home in Stouffville, Ontario, Canada this afternoon, David Taylor detailed what he said was nothing short of the couple’s “worst nightmare”, which also ruined their month-long honeymoon.
David, 61, and his wife Pamela, 64, were married last June in Canada but had only travelled to Barbados on January 9 for their honeymoon in “paradise”.
The ordeal started just after 5 p.m. on Friday, January 16, a week after their arrival.
The couple had decided to take a swim in the Hot Pot at Brighton Beach, where they got engaged in January last year.
“When we started to get out of the ocean as it was getting very rough at high tide, my wife’s left leg got stuck in the sticky muck deposited by that Hot Pot,” said David, who explained that in addition to a broken leg, his wife almost drowned after she was knocked over by giant waves.
“I was thankfully just behind her but had difficulty dragging her out of the ocean as I too was stuck in the muck but managed to drag her on to the beach to safety,” he said, adding that “some local people, strolling on the beach just looked on offering no assistance at all, despite my wife’s screaming in pain”.
It was a vacationing family from Calgary, Alberta, who were staying next door to the couple’s Brighton apartment, who came to their rescue.
After a one hour wait, he said his wife was transported to QEH by ambulance.
“At no time did either of the ambulance attendants ask anything about my wife’s comfort or make any attempt to engage in conversation with us at all, leaving us feeling alone and alienated,” David said.
“The attendants simply drove us to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and placed my wife on a broken stretcher in the hallway of the emergency ward and then left,” he recalled, adding that “nothing prepared us for the ordeal we were to encounter that night and the next day in that hospital”.
“My wife still in her wet, sand filled, bathing suit, and only a wet towel to cover her, was left on a stretcher that was put close to the ground as she was told it was broken and could fall over.
“We were left like this in a crowded hallway where we were both completely ignored by all staff doctors and hospital personnel for hours on end. Whenever I attempted to ask questions from any hospital personnel or to inquire about getting any kind of pain relief for my wife, I was either ignored or told, ‘we will either get back to you’, or ‘someone else would deal with it’,” the visitor added.
He said despite his relentless pursuit to get some relief for his wife, he was met with “continuous indifference and a total lack of patient care, and compassion by all hospital staff”.
“Hours went by, with my wife in chronic pain and were continuously told they there was no ice to reduce the swelling on her broken leg and nothing for her pain. When my wife asked to go to the bathroom they said they could give us a bed pan, but then I had to ask several more times and everyone kept telling me someone else would have to get the bed pan.
“Another half hour passed before I pursued yet another hospital staff [member] who finally gave me a bed pan but no toilet paper or anything else to clean her up with,” he said.
The Canadian national, who is of Barbadian descent, said he was eventually given a small piece of gauze but his wife, who was in severe pain, was still forced to wait.
“Finally, an unfortunate elderly man, who was foaming from his mouth, passed away across the hall from us, and my wife was only then, allowed to relieve herself in the room he had previously just died in as they wheeled him away, uncovered, to an empty room at the end of the hall,” he said.
“After, about an hour and a half sitting in this room alone together waiting for staff to see us, no one came or seemed to notice that we were in this room. Once again I ventured out to inquire about seeing a doctor and was told by a nurse that they must have forgotten about us, as we were no longer in the hallway.
“Again I asked this hospital staff for some pain relief and ice and water and was once again told there was no ice, no water, no food, and only when a doctor was available could we ask for pain relief.”
The 61-year-old certified family therapist said his wife was eventually given an x-ray and informed by a doctor that she required surgery, but this could not be done during the weekend.
A plastic cast was placed on the injury before the exhausted and hungry couple could return to their apartment.
“When I asked for crutches we were told by the doctor that none could be given or rented and that we could not even get a wheel chair to a cab . . . .”
They then agreed to pay for a private ambulance, which took an hour and a half to arrive.
After the weekend, as directed by the QEH doctor, the couple contacted a private clinic to book an appointment for surgery. However, after discussions with their insurance company, they eventually decided to fly back to Canada for the surgical procedure to be done there.
“My wife and I incurred hundreds of dollars in expenses while in Barbados as a result of her injury for medication, loss of purchased food, emergency travelling expenses etc.
“Doctor’s consultation fees, not to forget the undue week-long stress as a result of the trauma we both experienced at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and back and forth dealings between the medical system in Barbados and our travel insurance company, while on our honeymoon.”
However, David made it clear he was not telling his story in order to get compensation, but merely in the hope that there could be better patient care at the QEH.
“It was a very difficult situation because we didn’t expect it was going to be that bad. I only found out after that there were cut backs at the hospital. Everything took us completely by surprise,” said David, who was surprised to learn, based on his recent experience, that the island had the best health care system in the Caribbean.
The couple said they contacted the Canadian consulate and tourism authorities while here and since they returned home. However, they did not receive a response from any of these entities. Nonetheless, David said he still loves Barbados, which is home to several of his relatives but he is unsure that his wife will ever return to the island.
Efforts to reach hospital CEO Dr Dexter James today for comment proved futile.