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February 2016
Elderly patient falls through the cracks
Feb 5, 2016 3:13 PM

My father (Mr. M) died in 2010. His primary care doctor failed to give his patient the appropriate medical care and attention required to sustain a good quality and healthy life, thus resulting in his death. While under his primary care doctor's care, Mr. M had several medical issues, including diabetes that required insulin injection twice per day and blood testing and reading, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, glaucoma and cataracts in both eyes, poor blood circulation in his legs, and a triple bypass heart surgery in 2003.

His primary care doctor was aware of all aliments that Mr. M suffered, and he seemed very attentive to Mr. M in the beginning, working with him to ensure good health care. He later started home medical visits to Mr. M approximately once per month. However, in late 2008 the level of care progressively deteriorated and so did Mr. M’s health. He began losing a lot of weight rapidly and became very weak. I visited him once or twice per week and noticed this ongoing change in his health. I called the doctor several times and spoke to him personally advising him of my many concerns. He advised me he would check into it on each occasion we spoke. He also said that he would have a public health nurse visit Mr. M to help administer his medication, as he also recognized the changes. However, that did not transpire.

I became increasingly concerned as Mr. M became extremely weak and lost over 50 lbs or more, so I called his primary care doctor again. He said he would do a blood test, but this too never transpired. One day in June 2009, I was so concern and had lost faith in the doctor’s care so I started my own investigation and reviewed Mr. M's medications and noted that he had not been taking them, as all the containers were untouched. I asked Mr. M why, and he said he was too weak to administer his own injections and open pill bottles.

Historically, Mr. M had always been good with his medication intake and held a healthy weight. As I noticed his medications were untouched, I called the pharmacy where he gets his prescriptions filled as required. The pharmacist knew Mr. M very well and advised that he had not filled his prescription for at least 3 months. I was so shocked. I immediately went to the pharmacy to refill fresh prescriptions and sought a quick lesson on how to administer his insulin and other mediations. I called Mr. M'sprimary care doctor and asked how 3 months could have passed without him checking to ensure Mr. M was taking his medication, or at minimum attempt to determine why he was becoming so frail and lethargic.

He advised me that Mr. M does not come to the office, so how was he suppose to test him properly? I reminded the doctor that, historically, when he wanted Mr. M to be in the office they called me for his appointment and I have always taken him to attend the appointment or an agency was in place to take him to his appointments as required. His primary care doctor also advised me that he had not given Mr. M, his geriatric patient, a full medical for 3 years. I told him that was ridiculous! I believe this is medical care negligence. I was so scared that I took him out of his apartment that day, as the doctor had put Mr. M at such great risk - I thought, and he looked like, he was going to die.

I brought him to a local hospital to have him medically cared for and examined. He was in very bad shape. He weighed approximately 160 lbs, down from over 200 lbs. He was so weak and unable to stand on his own. I later moved him to my home and sought new residence for him closer to me and a doctor who would care for him properly and professionally. But by this time so much irreversible damage had already transpired, he would never be the same again. I was fortunate to get him residence in a senior building with an assistive care program that was able to maintain his daily medication and hygiene on a regular basis. Mr. M got somewhat stronger but never fully recovered. He started falling more, which led him to the hospital April 2010 for precautionary reasons. However, the lack of medical resources and care ultimately led to his death on October 26, 2010 in a local healthcare centre.

My dad died this date, and the hospital never warned or called me or his family to his bedside to say goodbye while he was still alive; he died alone. We were on our way to the hospital to attend a meeting with the doctor to determine whether to pull the plug or not. When we got there I mentioned I was going to visit my dad before the meeting and the nurse said he passed half an hour ago.

I want to ensure that this does not happen to another patient that cannot fend for him/herself. The healthcare system failed Mr. M. His failing health that ultimately led to his death began as a result of his primary care doctor's negligence. I brought this case before my province's regulatory college who later advised that decisions were rendered to counsel Mr. M's primary care doctor on better communication with family regarding health of patients who are receiving care at home, and increased consideration for escalation of care for patients who cannot be appropriately cared for at home. I was not satisfied with the outcome.

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