The B.C. Minister of Health has appointed two mediators to bring people together at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and address issues found in a recent IHealth review.
But it’s too late to help Mark Fisher of Qualicum Bay, who says a failure in the system in 2017 led to his receiving an improper treatment and, eventually, to what was he believes was an avoidable open-heart surgery.
“The internist called and apologized to me,” said Fisher, 57, who spent nearly a month of deteriorating health taking oral antibiotics for a rare blood infection before learning the disease could be controlled only through intraveneous antibiotics. “She said there had been a major failure to tell me, and the electronic system was not working.”
In a visit last week to Nanaimo, where the IHealth system was supposed to be rolled out for eventual use across Vancouver Island, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the appointment of mediators Jane Morley and Jean Greatbatch.
The review into the hospital’s electronic record system by Ernst and Young was released last week and described by Dix as “quite devastating” and highly critical of how the IHealth system has been implemented in Nanaimo and on Vancouver Island. During a press conference at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRH), he said he would appoint a mediator to start to address issues and that all individuals involved, including the health authority, doctors, nurses’ union and patients, would be stakeholders in the process.
“To succeed with IHealth and meet the recommendations of the report, a completely different approach is required — one based on working together,” Dix said in a press release. “Mediators are very good at determining the root causes why there are difficulties or challenges in a work environment and finding the solutions that bring stakeholders together.”
Fisher said he has no faith in the electronic system and said he would prefer it be scrapped in favour of the traditional paper record-keeping. He has also turned his back on the hospital in Nanaimo and moved his follow-up tests and treatment to Comox.
His saga began in January of 2017, when he began losing weight and feeling weak and lethargic.
In a stay at NRGH in early February he underwent a battery of tests and was eventually diagnosed with aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, a rare blood infection. He was then sent home with a course of oral antibiotics, he said.
“After 20 days I complained and said, ‘I don’t think this is working,’” said Fisher, who said he dropped from 210 to 150 pounds on his 6-foot-tall frame. He said he was directed back to NRGH, where he was installed in the heart ward and placed on an IV course of antibiotics as soon as the mistake in his treatment was recognized.
During a weeklong stay in the hospital, he said, physicians discovered the blood disease had attacked his mitral valve, and he was rushed to Victoria General Hospital for surgery to replace the valve. He says he was never put on a heart monitor while at NRGH and, by the time he arrived in Victoria for his April 24 surgery, doctors told him he had no time to spare.
“I could have dropped dead any time during that eight days (in Nanaimo),” Fisher claims. “Why didn’t they put the heart monitor on me when I got there? I think they put me on the back burner.”
During last week’s visit to Nanaimo by Dix and other Ministry of Health officials, no specific cases from the IHealth report were addressed publicly.
Dix previously said the first task of a mediator will be to review the report, make sure everyone accepts that nothing is missing and then proceed to resolve the problems step by step with everyone in the room working together and coming to a consensus of how to proceed.
“Ordinarily you wouldn’t use a mediator in this task, I don’t think. This is a little bit different. But I think given the circumstances at the hospital, bringing someone in with that experience will be able to bring people together. It’s a good idea and that’s what we propose to do,” he said.
Morley is a lawyer and mediator who has been commissioner on Canada’s initial Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a child and youth officer of B.C., and a public representative with the College of Physicians and Surgeons for eight years. Greatbatch has four decades of experience in working with organizations, acting as mediator, an investigator with the B.C. Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry, instructor and health-care union representative, the press release states.