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B.C. hospital sends terminal cancer patient on cold walk to avoid the flu

Vernon cancer patients lose special entrance due to protocol that ‘doesn’t make sense’

Diagnosed with terminal cancer, John Erickson had just started his chemotherapy at Vernon Jubilee Hospital on Oct. 18, 2023. Despite his grim diagnosis, he was delighted to learn of a special parking area for cancer patients on the west side of the hospital near a handy side entrance, leading right to the McMurtry-Baerg Cancer Centre.

“It was working so perfect,” said Erickson, 77.

But not long after he started his treatments he was surprised to find the entrance was closed one day in November.

Flu season prompted Interior Health (IH) to close the entrance and divert patients through the main doors.

“We have to go all the way around to enter emergency and we have to go through all these people who are sick, coughing and sneezing,” said Erickson. “It just doesn’t make any sense at all, not to anybody that works there or anybody getting treatment.”

With no walk-in clinics in Vernon, Erickson said there is never less than 10 people in the emergency waiting room.

He is told there are about 100 people a day being treated at the cancer clinic, all of whom must make this detour that not only puts them in proximity of illnesses, but forces them to walk much further.

For a healthy individual, the walk is fine, but as Erickson explains, someone going through cancer treatments can’t withstand the winds or cold as easy.

“If the wind were any worse, I wouldn’t be able to talk,” he told The Morning Star outside the west entrance.

IH says the entrance is closed in compliance with the enhanced respiratory illness season orders issued by the Provincial Health Officer.

“Patients and their visitors must attend an entrance that has patient ambassadors to complete the screening and masking requirements,” IH told The Morning Star.

But Erickson says it is completely redundant for cancer patients, who already have to wear a mask in the clinic anyway.

“They do things that don’t make sense but this one takes the cake as the stupidest,” said Erickson.

He has tried to reach out to every level of government possible, including IH, to visit the site and see the situation for themselves.

But he’s been given the run around time and again.

IH has also told him that it anticipates the west entrance will be reopened at the end of March.

Erickson will be done his cancer treatments by then, and isn’t sure if he will make it to Christmas this year.

But he hopes his efforts make a difference in future decision making.

In the meantime, IH says it appreciates the mobility challenge the added distance presents and invites patients needing a porter to bring them to the cancer centre to call the main switchboard at the hospital.

“Interior Health is committed to ensuring the safety of all patients, particularly those who are more vulnerable during the respiratory illness season.”

Respiratory season generally runs from October to March each year but is subject to extension by the Provincial Health Officer.

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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

20-year-Morning Star veteran
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