Jean Donaldson woke up on the night of Jan. 22 and noticed that her right arm felt weak.
“I assumed I had had a stroke,” she said.
Donaldson had suffered bleeding in the brain. She was admitted to the emergency room at Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody.
The former clinical neuropsychologist still has a hard time believing what happened next.
“I was moved from the emergency room proper on a gurney to the lobby and there were four other gurneys there with screens around them. I was there for a total of 36 hours,” Donaldson said.
“There were no call buttons. I remember getting some medication – that was the only water I was given. I just sort of lay there. After 30 hours, I managed to get off the gurney and into my scooter and rustled a toothbrush and a washcloth and used the public washroom to brush my teeth and wash my face.”
She says she spent 36 hours in the hospital lobby, next to the gift shop. In a cruel irony, Donaldson’s bed was set up beneath a plaque honouring her for the donations she had made to the hospital.
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“I was lying under plaques that list people’s lifetime contributions to Eagle Ridge Hospital – and I was lying right under my name,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson’s story was discussed during question period in the legislature on Wednesday.
“Why does this government believe that it’s OK for vulnerable seniors to languish in the lobby, outside a hospital gift shop, while waiting for a bed?” NDP MLA Selina Robinson asked.
“It is, in fact, the case that wintertime is busy. We know that. The members opposite would seem to think that they, had they had the opportunity, would build capacity to 150 per cent to accommodate the busiest days of the year and leave hospitals half-empty the rest of the year – good stewardship of taxpayers’ money,” Health Minister Terry Lake said.
Since Donaldson’s incident five weeks ago, more hospital beds have opened up to deal with overflow from the ER, according to Fraser Health.
Donaldson said her story is part of a much bigger problem.
“I’m angry at the provincial government. I’m angry that there isn’t funding for hospitals.”
“I’m not on Christy Clark’s radar,” she said. “I don’t think she cares about people like me. I’m not sure she cares about this situation.”
– With files from Rumina Daya