An off-reserve member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation is raising concerns about the treatment of patients with Covid-19 in Alberta after a “horrible experience” at an Edmonton hospital.
During a trip to the emergency room earlier this month, Selena Drysdale says a nurse was rude to her, denied her medical care, and recommended that she take public transit despite being Covid-19 positive, which is a violation of Alberta’s public health regulations.
Drysdale said she’s sharing her story because she’s worried other patients could be treated the same way. Her account was first published on Windspeaker.com.
“I am thankful that I was put in that position because I have a voice and it’s a loud one,” she said. “We are in a global pandemic and people are dying so I feel it’s necessary to speak about my experience, so that people understand what’s going on at ground level.”
Drysdale said both she and her uncle tested positive for Covid-19 in early December and were isolating separately. On December 5, when she called to check in on her uncle – who is elderly and lives alone – he wasn’t sounding well.
“He was only able to speak a couple of words. He wasn’t able to speak in sentences,” she described.
Drysdale drove to her uncle’s home where she called 811, an Alberta number that provides access to health services. During that call, Drysdale said a nurse expressed concern that she also didn’t sound well.
After paramedics arrived, Drysdale said they took her uncle to the Royal Alexandria Hospital while she was taken to the University of Alberta Hospital, both in Edmonton.
Drysdale waited in the emergency room for two hours and still hadn’t seen a doctor when she started “to feel a little funny.” As she has diabetes, Drysdale asked the nurse at reception to take her blood sugar, which registered 5.6 millimoles per litre. While between 5 and 8 is normal, Drysdale worried out loud that her blood sugar was getting low and she would need to eat something soon.
‘Callous’ response in ER
That’s when her troubles began.
Drysdale said the attending nurse responded by telling her that her blood sugar was normal and she couldn’t give her any food.
“Just the way she responded to me felt very callous,” Drysdale described.
She noted that on other occasions when she has been in the emergency room and needed to eat to raise her blood sugar level, nurses have offered to get her something like a piece of toast.
Because she was Covid-19 positive, Drysdale added, she worried about wandering the hospital to find a vending machine or violating public health orders by leaving to get something to eat.
“I decided that if the nurse wasn’t going to help me with my type two diabetes, I was going to have to figure it out on my own.”
Drysdale decided to leave the hospital. She didn’t get far, however, because she was tired and short of breath due to Covid-19. She returned to the waiting room a few minutes later.
After waiting another 45 minutes, Drydale approached the nurse again to find out what her options were to get something to eat.
“She looked up at me and kind-of rolled her eyes and looked back down,” she described.
The nurse told Drysdale she had been discharged immediately when she left the hospital. An exchange ensued and a hospital security guard showed up, after which Drysdale left the hospital again in frustration.
“As an Indigenous woman, I know that I need to be very careful with my tone and my word choice. Because when I become assertive, and people don’t like what I’m saying, they start thinking I’m becoming defiant and obstinate,” said Drysdale, who described herself as a Sixties Scoop survivor raised in a non-Indigenous home.
Drysdale’s new concern was how she was going to get home or back to her truck, having been earlier taken to hospital. Alberta’s isolation requirements prohibit anyone who is Covid-19 positive from taking public transit, including taxis and ride-sharing services.
Two passing police officers assured Drysdale she would get a ride to her truck. Yet she said a hospital supervisor subsequently told her there was nothing they could do for her.
Drysdale thinks her interaction with the nurse led others at the hospital to deny her assistance.
“Had she been a little bit more compassionate to my situation, and had a little bit more empathy, I think that would have been enough for her to treat me with the respect that I deserved,” she said.
Drysdale called other services like a non-emergency policy line without success. Ultimately, she felt she had no choice but to take a taxi to her truck.
“I made the best choice to limit the spread as much as I could,” she said, adding she wore a mask, used her sleeve to open the car door, and paid with tap during the eight-minute trip.
Drysdale decided not to go to another hospital as her experience in the emergency room left her “exhausted.” After a long rest, she said she felt better but still has a long recovery from Covid-19 ahead of her.
“Even though I didn’t have the major symptoms, I do notice that it took a lot out of my body,” she said. “I’m just… I’m exhausted. I wake up tired.”
‘A huge hole in the system’
Drysdale said the lack of a transportation plan for discharged patients with Covid-19 is a “huge hole in the system.”
“The way they suggested I could just take public transit home is a huge issue for me, because I know I’m not the first person that’s happened to,” she said.
Drysdale added that while patients at the hospital were wearing masks, social distancing was in place and there were plastic dividers in the waiting room, she’s concerned there was no separate area for patients who had Covid-19.
Drysdale said she has reported the incident to patient relations.
Alberta Health Services did not respond to Cabin Radio’s request for comment by the time of publication.