An Edmonton woman fears she will die before she receives cancer treatment because she has been told the medical system is too busy to help her.
Debra Williams went to the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in late November due to intense abdominal pain.
She said there were repeated problems with her care in hospital. It took multiple tries to get a sample for the biopsy, then the results were delayed. A drainage tube wasn’t put in properly, so she was in “excruciating” pain for much of her time there.
On Dec. 18, Williams received a diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma, a form of cancer that forms in the bile ducts.
“She should have been out of the hospital within a week,” said family friend Lori Harsh. “I felt it was mismanaged.
“After a month of being in hospital and being in bed, she’s so much weaker and she’s gone downhill.”
Global News reached out to Alberta Health Services for comment on Williams’ situation. Harsh said shortly after, she got a call from AHS patient relations who said they will follow up on Williams’ case and make recommendations based on her account of the medical treatment she received.
Despite positive experiences with her nursing team, Williams felt that her overall treatment was centred around how quickly staff could free up her hospital bed to accommodate someone else.
Harsh has been helping Williams with her homecare needs since being discharged on Dec. 27. She tried to book an appointment with her family doctor but is not able to get in for an appointment until the end of January.
“I would like to know where I’m at (with my diagnosis)… what I’ve got time for,” Williams said through tears.
“We need information. What is the state of her cancer? Is there a treatment available for it? We have no answers other than, ‘You have cancer,'” Harsh said.
Once she got home, Williams said the Cross Cancer Institute advised her that it would be another eight weeks before she could see an oncologist because they were “backed up.” Global News is awaiting comment from AHS on this matter as well.
“We’ve been informed that (her) cancer is quite progressive,” Harsh said.
“I don’t even know that she will make it to the time to get to even see an oncologist.”
A homecare worker is coming once a day to clean Williams’ drainage tube. She is waiting for an emergency placement to a palliative care unit in order to receive more complex care while she waits for an oncologist. However, her homecare doctor told her that AHS advised there is no bed for her right now.
Harsh said she will take care of her friend for the foreseeable future.
“My fear is that throughout all of this, before (she) even receives any medical care, she won’t be here anymore,” Harsh said. “She deserves better. She is stuck in medical limbo.”
“I just need things to progress a lot quicker than they do, for everybody,” Williams said.