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Mom vanishes from Maple Ridge hospital bed

Lynn O’Laughlin outside Ridge Meadows Hospital, from where she claims her mother was transferred to Langley without her knowledge. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Lynn O’Laughlin outside Ridge Meadows Hospital, from where she claims her mother was transferred to Langley without her knowledge.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

Lynn O’Laughlin walked into Ridge Meadows Hospital to visit her elderly mother on May 15, but found her bed empty, the room cleared of all her things.

Her first thought was that the 78-year-old, who had suffered from an infection, had passed away during the night. The first people she spoke with at the hospital couldn’t answer what had happened to her.

Finally, she learned that her mother had been transferred to Langley Memorial Hospital, one of five patients on the Path unit (Patient Assessment and Transition to Home) who had been part of the move.

“To freak us out with that is horrible,” she said. “I thought mom had passed away. She had a fever before the move, and still wasn’t 100 per cent since her fall.”

The Path ward is where patients go prior to going home or to a different facility. She had been in hospital six weeks, and on the Path unit for two.

O’Laughlin complained that she should have been informed. Her mother has the onset of dementia, and the move would be a confusing trial for her. In any event, she would have been leaving the ward soon, scheduled to move into Willow Manor on June 1. O’Laughlin has power of attorney for her mother, and equates her role to the guardianship a parent has of a child, so she should have been called.

“How hard is it to pick up the phone and phone the families,” she asks.

Asked why her mother would be moved, she was told that the beds were needed.

O’Laughlin said her mom’s case worker told her that it is not his responsibility to phone families about such transfers.

When she saw her mom, she found that she was still feverish.

“When I found out that she had a fever when they transferred her, I couldn’t believe it,” said O’Laughlin.

She has asked Fraser Health Authority for a formal response to her complaints, and has been advised that could take as long as 40 days.

O’Laughlin said there are other patients at Ridge Meadows Hospital who are more stable, who have no family around them, and asked why they could not be moved.

“It’s been very stressful for mom, and for all of us,” she said. “Why was she moved? I just don’t get it.”

O’Laughlin returned to Ridge Meadows Hospital on Saturday to complain about the situation, and try to have her mother returned to her hometown hospital. She was told it would be impossible.

She walked over to her mom’s former room, and found the three beds still sitting empty.

Then, on Thursday, she heard from a physician caring for her mother, who found that the urinary tract infection she had been suffering from was linked to a kidney problem. Her mom has been moved back to a medical ward in Langley.

O’Laughlin wonders why the abdomen scan that revealed the kidney problem was not done in Maple Ridge, and said she will no longer be seeking care at Ridge Meadows Hospital.

Asked about this case, Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma responded that stable patients, as recommended by doctors, are sometimes transferred out of a hospital if there is an issue of capacity.

The normal procedure is to notify the family where they will be transferred, and when.

“Unfortunately, in this particular case, there was a miscommunication and the family was not notified,” said Juma.

“Staff apologized to her [O’Laughlin], and I apologize to her even now.”

She said complaints can be made to Fraser Health’s patient care and quality office, and this helps inform changes to the patient-centred model of care.

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