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Questions raised on transporting coronavirus patients after Scarborough woman walks home

Questions raised after Scarborough woman walks home from hospital with COVID-19 diagnosis
WATCH ABOVE: A lack of clear direction has emerged when it comes to ensuring COVID-19-positive patients have a safe way home from hospital, when they’re unable to provide their own transportation. Morganne Campbell has more.

If you’ve been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, getting a ride home from the hospital may be harder than you’d think.

This comes after a Scarborough woman says she was forced to walk home after being quoted at least $1,200 by a nurse at Centenary Hospital last month to get a ride home.

“I came into hospital because I could not walk 18 minutes around my condo without getting out of breath,” the woman told Global News.

“He didn’t even bat an eye that I was going to walk an hour home.”

Global News has agreed to conceal the woman’s identity amid fears a COVID-19 diagnosis may cause the seniors who live in her building to be fearful.

READ MORE: Scarborough woman walks home from hospital with COVID-19 diagnosis

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An Ottawa-based epidemiologist says there are ways to solve the problem.

“An immediate solution, whether its municipal or provincial, [is to] step in and say we will cover all of the costs of patient transfer for those who test positive,” said Dr. Raywat Deonandan.

“That takes away the disincentive right away, keeps the patient transfer companies in business and lets the citizens feel safe.”

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It’s unclear where exactly the $1,200 quote came from. A spokesperson from the Scarborough Health Network (SHN) told Global News the hospital does not provide quotes to patients for private transportation home from the hospital.  

“For those that inform us that they do not have transportation home after a visit to our hospital, we work to identify options available to them,” said SHN spokesperson Leigh Duncan.

Scarborough woman walks home from hospital with COVID-19 diagnosis
Scarborough woman walks home from hospital with COVID-19 diagnosis

“As part of this process, a SHN social worker will connect with the patient and family to arrange transportation. When family is not available, the options may include taxi, private and not-for-profit providers. Each of these providers sets their own rates and conditions for providing service.”

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Executives point to “options,” but a patient is left with few as most cab companies don’t accept COVID-19 patients for safety reasons, and public transit isn’t available to those who have the virus and are exhibiting symptoms.

The City of Toronto said it is developing policies and procedures for transporting people who may have COVID-19 to protect drivers and residents, which could include equipping cabs with proper protective gear.

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“Those negotiations and discussions have been taking a bit longer than expected because I think its reasonable to have the hope that we could have some cabs that could be called in an instance like that by the assessment centre to take these people home. It isn’t reasonable to expect they’re going to walk for an hour,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said.

Deonandan said this case highlights systematic flaws prevalent prior to the pandemic, adding that it’s time the province consider at-home testing as an option, similar to what is being done in the U.S. and abroad.

“The model exists, we just have to take the model and run with it,” Deonandan said.

“It takes political will and decision-making capacity, and the ability to throw resources at the problem. We know how to do this. We just have to choose to do it.”

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READ MORE: Sweden took a softer COVID-19 approach. Has it been effective?

Meanwhile, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said she’d like to see price tags for trips between homes and the hospital decreased.

“The best case is what should be happening is that people can receive assistance in getting home for a far lesser price tag than that because it’s the state of their health and their financial situation as well,” Elliott said.

“Many people simply cannot afford that.”

In this case, not wanting to put adult children at risk, the woman decided to walk home, while her daughter followed behind in her vehicle.

“The whole thing made me very angry,” she said.