‘Begging for help’: Victoria woman alleges hospital security is dumping patients at bus stops

'Begging for help': Victoria woman alleges hospital security is dumping patients at bus stops

A Victoria woman has come forward alleging security staff at Royal Jubilee Hospital is dumping patients at a bus stop outside her apartment.

Julianna Nielsen has lived near the Bay Street hospital for about three years and says she’s seen several instances of hospital security dropping people off at the bus stop in front of her home.

Sometimes, the people being escorted are screaming or pleading for help, she says.

“A lot of people appear to be in medical distress. I’ve been woken up at four or five in the morning with people begging for help and crying at that bus stop,” said Nielsen.

On average, she says she’s seen similar incidents at least two times a week.

The most recent incident happened the night of Jan. 21, when she recorded four security officers carrying a woman, who was screaming for help, to the bus stop.

“She was crying and begging for help,” recalled Nielsen.

She says the woman at the bus stop told her she was experiencing homelessness and chest pains. About an hour later, the woman was picked up by paramedics.

“I knew I had to speak up with the evidence that I had,” added Nielsen.

The Jan. 21 incident happened just hours after she spoke out about at least eight other instances of alleged patient dumping at Royal Jubilee dating back to May 2021. There have also been allegations of patient dumping at Vancouver General Hospital, which encouraged her to speak out.

CHEK News has viewed the videos, and while it’s unclear if all people were hospital patients, hospital staff can be seen escorting people off the property towards the bus stop.

In one video, a person appearing to be wearing a hospital gown was put in the back of a police car.

“I’ll notice someone at the bus stop when I leave for work in the morning, and when I return at five, they’re still there,” said Nielsen.

‘Important to not draw conclusions,’ says Island Health

Island Health says it’s not aware of the Jan. 21 incident.

“I’m not aware of the patient incident. It’s important to not draw conclusions,” said Marko Peljhan, Island Health’s vice president of clinical services.

Peljhan says that when it comes to discharging patients, the health authority directs them to services they might need. He adds that security must meet a criteria before contacting police for assistance.

CHEK News asked Peljhan what would prompt a patient to be escorted to a bus stop.

“Our security officers, they may assist a patient who’s in need of assistance of any type. They may also get involved if that patient need warrants it — either from a safety risk to other patients within the department, or the hospital, or a safety risk to staff,” said Peljhan.

Victoria police say they would only get involved if there is an unwanted person or the person has a warrant out for their arrest.

“VicPD would get involved in this situation if they received a call for service. In most cases, this would likely be a call for an unwanted person either at the hospital or the bus stop,” said Cheryl Major, the department’s director of community engagement.

Major adds that in both instances, they wouldn’t release the person at the bus stop, adding that in most cases, they either give the person a ride or “simply end up moving them along.”

In a statement to CHEK News on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said violence or harassment towards health care workers is not tolerated, adding in some instances and based on patient behaviour and actions during discharge, Protection Services Officers may be involved to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

“While we cannot speak to individual cases, we can provide general information about the work that health care teams do to support patients who have been discharged from hospital,” the statement reads.

“Most importantly, people are not discharged unless it is medically safe to do so. People who need acute medical care would not be discharged. Patients are discharged on the advice of medical professionals when they are deemed medically stable and appropriate based on clinical assessment. Discharge plans are tailored to each individual and clinical situation.”

The ministry said patients discharged who are deemed medically stable for discharge but may have unstable housing will work with allied health teams, including social workers and, if appropriate their family or support network and our community partners, to develop a plan to facilitate a safe discharge.

“This could include connection with housing supports or shelters,” the ministry said.

Nielsen hopes the province will step in and change how hospital staff handle discharged patients.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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