Penticton woman held against her will in care home for more than 2 years
PENTICTON – It’s an unthinkable mistake that stole more than two years of Nancy Varcoe’s freedom. The Penticton woman was admitted to hospital for mental health related issues in 2011, then transferred to Westview Place care home in Penticton. When she tried to leave, she was told she wasn’t fit to go home.
She first shared her story with Global News three years ago, while she was still inside the home. “They’re holding me against my will,” said Varcoe back in 2012, “I medically don’t need to be here.”
Turns out, she was right.
Nancy’s husband, David Varcoe, rallied for his wife’s release. The couple claims an Interior Health Employee forged Nancy’s signature on a document taking away David’s rights as Power of Attorney, then signed those rights over to the Public Guardian and Trustee, a provincial agency that protects those declared mentally incapable of doing it themselves.
When asked if an IH staff member forged Nancy’s signature, IHA Executive Director of Residential Services, Karen Bloemink wouldn’t comment.
The Varcoe’s also claim Nancy should have been reassessed two months after she was put into the care home, but that never happened. They say she finally was reassessed nearly two and a half years later, and it was then she was cleared to go home.
Bloemink wouldn’t confirm or deny that claim either, saying she can’t discuss any specifics in relation to Nancy’s care.
David Varcoe took his wife’s case to the provincial Ombudsperson, who is in charge of investigating the government. The Ombudsperson found Interior Health was in the wrong and concluded IHA should issue a formal apology letter to the couple, a refund of the more than $25,000 the Varcoe’s paid for Nancy’s care and the health authority and further educate staff on the Adult Guardianship Act.
“The error was that we didn’t follow the steps that are outlined in legislation for obtaining consent,” says Bloemink, who wouldn’t go into specifics about what mistakes were made. “Our main objective is to prevent a future situation like this happening. The health authority is quite regretful.”
IHA has now offered the Varcoe’s a full refund for the cost of her care.
The Varcoe’s still haven’t decided if they’ll take legal action against Interior Health.
“You can’t recover those thirty months of your life that are lost, ever. You can’t be repaid for those months.” says David Varcoe, “I’m never going to get the answer to the question I want, why. It’s just that simple.”