A Kamloops man is distraught and angry that his wife walked into Royal Inland Hospital more than a year ago with a skin infection on her foot and now she's convalescing at Ponderosa Lodge while he's being billed for it.
In May 2012, Marshall Duliba's 74-year-old wife Olga was sent to Royal Inland Hospital for treatment of a skin infection on her foot. She is also diabetic and overweight.
He said she was admitted and, two days later, given a sleeping medication that just made her more agitated. He said she then reacted badly to a second medication and had to be given something to counteract that.
After all that medication, Duliba was called at home at 4 a.m. by a nurse who told him his wife had stopped breathing.
"She said, 'What do you want us to do?' " he said. "I'll never forget that. 'What do you want us to do?' "
His wife ended up in intensive care for three weeks, and he believes she suffered brain damage as a result of not breathing. She developed a loss of muscle co-ordination, tremors and a raspy voice.
After almost a year in hospital, including time in physiotherapy, his wife was discharged to Ponderosa Lodge in May after Duliba protested he couldn't give her the care she needed at home.
Despite being retired, Duliba was still running a small business travelling around the province selling industrial oil.
He's lost that business, he said, because he now has to be at Ponderosa twice a day to feed his wife. She's too shaky to feed herself and the staff don't help her, he said.
He said he was offered home care, but it would have eaten up the small pensions he and his wife get. He would also have to make his home wheelchair-accessible, and he can't get financial assistance to help with that expense.
Duliba has spoken to numerous hospital officials and written to the provincial patient care review board. He has been told in addition to diabetes, his wife has had congestive heart failure, fluid in the lungs and blood clotting problems in her legs. But the board didn't assign any blame.
He wants financial compensation so he can afford to care for his wife.
He believes the hospital or Interior Health be accountable for the fact his wife walked into RIH on her own and came out almost a year later needing at least a walker.
"She walked into the hospital and now she can't even walk by herself or feed herself," he said. "I know she had some health problems, but she was walking and talking and making meals."
The Vancouver lawyer he spoke to said it would be at least two to three years to get the case through court.
"And if I lose, I have to pay court costs," he said.
"I'd like to see some compensation, the bill paid at Ponderosa and something to cover my business loss so I can live and for her health costs."
He's also being billed $31.52 a day for his wife to be in Ponderosa — a cost he said he never agreed to.
"I haven't paid a cent and I don't intend to," he said.
Patient confidentiality always ties the hands of Interior Health representatives in trying to respond to cases such as Duliba's. But they can explain in general terms.
Hospital administrator Marg Brown said she has looked over the documents for Olga Duliba.
"I am quite confident that she received good care at RIH," she said.
"When you talk about concerns from the family or patients, we encourage them to access the patient care quality office. Our staff helps them through the process of seeking answers. I know that happened in this case.
"And I know the majority of questions or complaints are addressed through that office. But there is also the patient care quality care review board."
When told Duliba has also gone that route and remains unsatisfied, she reiterated she was confident his wife got good care.
As for that 4 a.m. call about his wife not breathing, Brown said she would have been getting treatment while staff were speaking with him.
"Safety is our top priority. If a patient's condition is compromised or he or she is medically unstable, it's not uncommon for nurses/doctors to contact the family for treatment or care. But they would not withhold treatment," she said.
Brown is a big advocate for advance care planning — that is, mapping out possibilities and decisions to be made ahead of someone entering into hospital or just as a family discussion.
It's similar to writing a will, but about how far to take treatment or life-saving measures and best done when there's no urgency, she said.
Duliba's wife was moved to Ponderosa because she doesn't need acute care any more, but still needs time to get stronger. The Pathways to Home program is at Ponderosa and all patients are charged $31.52 a day — a provincially mandated fee, not something set by IHA.
"Prior to transferring patients to that, we ask them to acknowledge they are agreeable to paying this rate. And if they feel they can't, they can ask for a waiver. There is a process in terms of looking at the waiver. But we don't delay sending them to a pathways bed while waiting to see if they qualify for the waiver."
Duliba doesn't qualify. He will eventually have to figure out how to bring his wife home and care for her, or find another option.
"It's short stay. The patients who go there, the intention is that they will eventually go home," she said.
She understands the change in his wife's health condition would be difficult for Duliva to cope with.
"It's a loss, it's a change," she said. "For this gentleman, it's likely grief. He's grieving the loss of what he knew."