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Fraser Health rapped: Sent patients to Chilliwack homeless shelter

The exterior of Surrey Memorial Hospital.


The exterior of Surrey Memorial Hospital.


Arlen Redekop / PNG files

Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove is demanding answers from the Fraser Health Authority after a 76-year-old woman with mobility and severe incontinence issues was discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital and sent by taxi to the Chilliwack Salvation Army shelter early last month.

In a letter to Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee, the mayor said he is aware of two cases in which shelter staff were asked to take patients from the Surrey hospital without being told about the care they required.

“A homeless shelter is no place for a person with health concerns or special medical needs,” the mayor said in the letter, which was sent to Fraser Health on Tuesday. “Discharging patients into homeless shelters when they still require some level of care is not an acceptable practice. Homeless shelters provide clients with a cot for the night which is not suitable for a recently discharged patient.”

In his letter, the mayor recounted the case of an elderly woman who arrived from the hospital by taxi on Feb. 2.

“According to the Salvation Army, this elderly individual arrived with a walker and some significant health concerns, including incontinence, and is unable to clean herself,” said Popove. “Shortly after her arrival, it was clear that the Salvation Army would be unable to accommodate her at their shelter due to sanitary and safety concerns.”

The woman was transferred to a temporary shelter without stairs, but “her physical and mental health needs continued to make it impossible for staff to care for her.” She left the shelter on her own and returned to the Salvation Army.

On Feb. 22, the shelter received another call from Fraser Health about a man who was being discharged from Surrey Memorial and needed a bed.

Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove.


Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove.

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“After further investigation, they learned that the patient was in a wheelchair, had open wounds on his feet and needed to be in a hospital bed,” said the mayor. “This information was not disclosed by the social worker, and shelter staff realized they would be unable to provide the level of care this individual requires.”

The mayor asked the Fraser Health CEO to answer several questions, including whether hospitals regularly discharge patients into homeless shelters.

“I would like to know why vulnerable people are being sent to Chilliwack homeless shelters from another community,” Popove added. “How is it possible that a 76-year-old woman with multiple significant health concerns could have been discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital and sent via taxi to a homeless shelter in Chilliwack over 70 kilometres away from her home, friends and family?”

Popove asked for a meeting with Lee to discuss the situation and “to ensure this woman is reconnected with her community and proper care.”

Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said Fraser Health received the letter late Wednesday and is looking into the mayor’s claims. She could not comment on specific cases, but explained that patients are sometimes discharged from hospital into a shelter when they are “deemed to be medically stable.”

Like someone who is being discharged to a home, Fraser Health ensures community supports are in place for the person, and shelter staff are informed and must agree to the situation, she said.

Juma was unable to say if Fraser Health staff followed this procedure in the two cases mentioned by Popove in his letter.

More to come …

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