The bills are piling up for an elderly American patient at Royal Inland Hospital as he and his son try desperately to secure his discharge.
Medical staff is refusing to let him go, says Interior Health, because it hasn't been able to get the necessary air-medical transport and admission to a hospital on the other end.
"I am trying to do is work on something that is a safe and mutually agreeable solution to getting this gentleman home," said Marg Brown, IH health service administrator. "And I really would like him to be able to get back to his own city."
The patient's son, however, believes the reason is more nefarious — an outstanding bill of $192,000.
An email from Margaret Duncan, Royal Inland Hospital's ICU social worker, convinced him that the real reason behind the delayed release is leverage for payment.
"Today the doctor informed me that until your father's bill is paid . . . the doctor will not engage with a transfer discussion," writes Duncan in her Sept. 18 email to Dariusz Mogielnicki.
"I have been informed that in the United States it has become an increasing practice for drs to hold their patients when there is a risk that doctors and hospital may not be paid.
"However we realize as long as your father is in Canada his medical bill will continue to increase and I encourage you to address these financial concerns as soon as possible."
After forming a companionship with a Kamloops woman while she visited his hometown of Las Vegas, 78-year-old Lucjan Mogielnicki decided the couple should take a road trip in his RV to her town.
A few months after arriving, Mogielnicki suffered an abdominal aortic aneurism. He was admitted to RIH on Aug. 29, had surgery and was placed in ICU.
A few weeks later he appeared ready for discharge as he breathed on his own and spoke, said his son.
Dariusz drove from Las Vegas with his wife and an RN in anticipation of his father's release, intending to drive him home in the motorhome.
But he soon found out that wouldn't be allowed.
The ICU unit is costing $9,400 a day. But the most pressing concern is a desperate desire to get the elderly man home.
"He dreamed all his life of being in the United States," said Dariusz, choking up while discussing his father's escape from Communist Poland. "I know how much he had to fight to get to America. Don't do this to this man. Let him die at home if he wants it."
He took a video of his father in the hospital bed and hooked up to intubation on Tuesday, saying he wanted to go home.
Dariusz has called the RCMP and the American consulate with allegations of extortion and kidnapping.
The authorities chose not to interfere, he said, once medical staff explained that a medical transport with Life Flight International fell through when the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada discovered the patient wasn't insured.
Brown said the patient's stay at RIH has nothing to do with outstanding bills. She said hospital staff is working on a plan to arrange safe medical transport to a hospital in the U.S.
Interior Health has a process of collecting outstanding bills that doesn't involve keeping the patient, she said.
"We work with the family. We work with third-party insurance in terms of securing some sort of payment — something that's mutually agreeable for solution on payment," said Brown.
She was clear that hospital staff don't have the authority to hold patients against their will.
"You can sign yourself out against medical advice and I guess they can figure out how to eventually get this gentleman out of the hospital," she said.
"If it means that patient's going to be dead in 12 hours from now, I'd say we are getting down to a real ethical dilemma in terms of responsibility, letting somebody do that."