A Toronto man best known for his skating fundraisers for Alzheimer’s research is calling on all levels of government to fix the surgical backlogs that have kept his wife in hospital for nearly a month awaiting a procedure.
Steve McNeil and his wife Tina Grazos-McNeil were watching TV on Canada Day when Tina said she didn’t feel right. McNeil said his wife started having a seizure and collapsed.
“Her right arm and right leg started twitching like nothing I’ve ever seen and she collapsed on the floor,” he said.
In a hospital room the next day, they were told Grazos-McNeil had a brain tumour and required a biopsy to determine next steps.
Humber River Hospital where Grazos-McNeil was admitted, isn’t able to conduct the procedure. Sunnybrook Hospital is, but the couple has repeatedly been told scheduled procedures have been cancelled due to a lack of space there.
“Every day the staff calls Sunnybrook to ask about a bed and there never seems to be a bed available,” McNeil said. “Until we get that biopsy done, we’re just spinning our wheels here, and I’m watching my wife deteriorate.”
After nearly a month of waiting by his wife’s side, McNeil put out a plea to Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging them to come together and fix health care.
Hospitals have continued to face severe staffing and capacity strains, long after the worst of the winter COVID-19 waves.
In a memo obtained by Global News on Monday, the Chief of Surgery at Sunnybrook Hospital warned of the potential need to cancel surgeries and only “life or limb” procedures would be deemed essential.
Dr. Avery Nathens also said he had spoken to neighbouring hospitals about transferring patients there, only to be told they are facing similar limitations.
An interview request from Global News on the hospital strains with Minister of Health Sylvia Jones was declined. Instead a ministry spokesperson outlined several steps the Ford government announced months ago to alleviate health-care strains, including a March plan to recruit new staff while retaining current members.
A spokesperson from Sunnybrook told Global News in an email that it was able to avoid cancelling surgeries and that Grazos-McNeil’s procedure appeared to be scheduled for Tuesday.
McNeil was unware of that development until told by Global News, likening his wife’s procedure to winning the lottery. With the couple’s 33rd anniversary coming up, he wants to start planning what comes next so this is the only celebration they have to hold from a hospital room.