Diabetic man waits hours for food at Halifax hospital, wife speaks out

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Lori Furber wants to see some accountability after her husband missed a meal and had another hours late during a stay at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax.

Furber said her husband, 58-year-old Gary Little, is recovering in hospital after getting surgery for lung cancer. Patients are supposed to receive three meals a day – but on Thursday, his breakfast never arrived.

“The hospital hadn’t provided him food since about 6:30 or 7 from his dinner tray the night before,” said Furber, who is from the Sackville area. “We all know our health-care system is in crisis, but this should not happen.”

She said during his stay, food has arrived late before, but this was the first time the hospital missed a meal altogether. She noted her husband is diabetic, and needs food to take his medication.

Lori Furber with her husband, Gary Little. Submitted by Lori Furber

Furber said during the wait for breakfast, she spoke with a nurse who said “several” patients had yet to get their trays because of “dietary staffing issues.”

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“I really have no idea if ‘several’ is 50, or if several is 200,” she said.

She said she ended up getting her husband some food to tide him over until lunch, which didn’t arrive until 3 p.m.

“It hurts me to my core to know that had I not been here, my husband would have been hungry all day long,” she said.

Furber worries for other patients who might not have someone to get them food in cases where staffing issues are affecting meal delivery.

“I did provide food for him, but how many other people are in the hospital who are from out of town who don’t have somebody staying in the city with them to bring them food?” she said.

“I’m advocating for him, but I’m also advocating for all the other people out there who don’t have somebody there with them every day, checking on them.”

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Furber said she actually used to work at the Victoria General in administration until her retirement four years ago.

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While it’s unclear if the “dietary staffing issues” had to do with the delivery or preparation of the food, she said there are “lots of ways around that if you can problem-solve.”

“There’s porters in the hospital, there’s staff on the floor that could have gone and picked up trays and delivered them to people,” she said.

“And if it’s food not being prepared, then the Nova Scotia Health Authority should’ve had something in place to have food brought in from some source so that patients weren’t hungry.”

Review underway

In a statement, Nova Scotia Health spokesperson Jennifer Lewandowski said they are “very sorry for the service that the patient and their family received,” and said a review is underway to better understand why this happened.

“Food and nutrition services is in the process of adding more team members. Like other parts of the system, we can be challenged when patient volumes are especially high,” she said.

“Our teams are constantly working to improve the enhanced room service model. This includes growing our team by adding members to support answering the phone when patients call in their meal requests.”

The statement did not say how many patients were affected by delayed food delivery or how many staff members they are looking to hire.

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Meanwhile, Furber said she wants assurance that something like this will never happen again.

“It doesn’t matter how short-staffed you are. You make sure patients get fed,” she said. “Patient care should be first and foremost, and part of patient care is getting nutrition.”

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