Morgan Fedak talks often to his mother. He didn’t want to make this call.
“They called me to tell me they may withdraw that service,” said Fedak, as he spoke to his 89-year-old mother, Ursula, who lives in an assisted-living facility.
He’s referring to a phone call he received from Alberta Health Services telling him the organization is considering no longer sending someone to change Ursula’s ostomy bag.
On the phone, Ursula said, “They have to. I can’t do it. Like I told Morgan, I’ll go down fighting all the way.”
Morgan says the person from AHS told him the COVID-19 pandemic requires a change but it’s still not clear how widespread it could be.
“I said, ‘Does that mean you’re taking the service away?’ and they said, ‘No we’re still looking for volunteers at the moment,'” he recalled.
“I was told if the service was going to be cancelled, I would be told with very little warning.
“I’m very disappointed. Health care is supposed to be there for the people who need it. This is not a luxury.”
A home care worker has been helping Ursula for about three years. Originally, the worker changed her ostomy bag, helped her shower and reminded her what medication she needs to take.
Last month, the worker stopped helping with her shower so the Morgan hired someone else to aid her.
Several other people receiving such care also expressed concern over plans to eliminate showers.
Alberta Health Services says COVID-19 is leading to difficult decisions. Home Care is moving to provide essential services only. If a patient or family member can safely do a task, then that service will not be provided by home care during the pandemic.
“We know this is difficult,” AHS said in a statement. “However we must take all necessary steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in order to protect Albertans, as well as our front-line healthcare providers.”
Changing an ostomy bag is not considered an essential service unless it cannot be safely changed by the patient or a family member. If it cannot, the AHS statement says home care will continue to provide the service.
Morgan isn’t sure why AHS would look to him.
“I’m not a health care professional. I’m a boiler maker. I’m not sure what I could do for my mother.”
Moreover, he isn’t sure the alternative will do anything to prevent COVID-19 either.
Morgan points out he doesn’t live with his mother. Whoever changes Ursula’s ostomy bag will have to enter her suite. That merely shifts, not reduces, the COVID-19 risk.
It all has left Morgan disheartened.
“I don’t feel rage,” he said. “I just feel like we’ve been let down.”