Following allegations of patient dumping at Royal Jubilee Hospital, B.C.’s health critic says it’s a result of a health-care system in crisis.
On Jan. 22, a Victoria woman provided several videos of alleged patient dumping at a bus stop across from Royal Jubilee.
Videos dating back to 2021 show security officers taking people off the hospital property. However, it’s unclear if all the people being removed were patients.
A woman, whose identity CHEK News has agreed to protect her employment, says that between October and December 2023, she was taken to Royal Jubilee on four occasions, and on three of those, she had to walk back to her home more than 10 kilometres away after being discharged.
“I told them if I was released, that I would go home and kill myself, and they said, ‘Well, there’s nothing we can do,'” said Lisa.
Lisa, who says she was diagnosed with schizophrenia more than 10 years ago, claims she wasn’t ever given the chance to see a doctor during those four occasions.
“I had to walk home, didn’t see a psychiatrist, even though I had been there like four times in two months,” said Lisa.
She also claims that on those occasions, she wasn’t given options for support services or transportation home. She also says she wasn’t allowed to bring her cell phone to call someone for a ride.
“I asked if they could call my mom — I’m very close with my mom — and they said no, they weren’t allowed to do that,” said Lisa.
More than a dozen viewers have contacted CHEK News with similar allegations of a lack of support services and transportation options.
‘A balancing act’
“We acknowledge that situations involving patients with extremely complex care needs and concurrent social issues (IE unstable housing) can be very challenging for our care teams and staff,” said Island Health in an emailed statement.
Island Health told CHEK News on Jan. 22 that it directs discharged patients to support services and transportation if needed. On Jan. 24, the health authority said it would follow up with its staff on how those resources are provided.
“We will also be following up with our frontline care providers, medical staff and support staff to ensure they have access to the information and resources they need to provide the best care possible to our patients,” said Island Health.
Both the Ministry of Health and the Hospital Employees Union (HEU) say they are working with Island Health in reviewing its emergency discharge practices.
“Leadership at Island Health are reviewing emergency department discharge processes at Royal Jubilee Hospital, and that will be expanded to a broader Island-wide review,” said the Health Ministry.
Meena Brisard, spokesperson for the HEU, says the union is gathering more details on the matter.
“Ensuring the care environment meets patients’ needs and ensuring worker safety is always a balancing act,” said Brisard.
“It is complicated work and often includes responding to underlying social issues like homelessness, mental health and drug addiction that are not always immediately clear or easily resolved.”
‘No wonder we’re facing challenges like this’
B.C.’s health critic says possible cases of patient dumping are a result of a health-care system in crisis.
“When you think about how hard it is for people who don’t have a family doctor, whose ERs are closed, who have to wait hours in line,” said Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond.
“The longest wait times in Canada to get into a walk-in clinic. No wonder we’re facing challenges like this.”
Bond acknowledges the challenges frontline health-care workers face in certain situations, however, she says the health ministry needs to ensure patients are provided with the necessary care.
“The fact that the public is stepping up and coming forward to say they’re concerned about this means we need to pay attention,” said Bond.
In January 2023, Alberta Health Services (AHS) launched a ‘bridge healing’ program that puts discharged ER patients into transitional housing before they can find stable housing.
“The program will help clients transition to appropriate permanent housing, and they will have access to a range of community-based AHS services, including addiction and mental health and home care, among others,” says Mark Snaterse, executive director for Addiction and Mental Health for Edmonton Zone in a January 2023 press release.
The program can hold up to 36 patients, and according to AHS, they are provided with health care and community supports.