A patient, who has been immobilized in bed at Lethbridge senior nursing, has her face nibbled on by mice. It’s one of those health-care horror stories that people say Medicare participants go through, but this could have been worse.
“She’s immobile — she couldn’t even wake up and shoo these things away,” said Sandra Azocar, executive director of the health-care advocacy group.
“It’s beyond comprehension, unfathomable, that this could happen to someone.”
According to Azocar, the mouse-bite victim lives in the dementia unit at St. Therese Villa, a modern 200-bed facility with a history of problems with mice and bed bugs, blamed by some on a policy which allows residents to bring their own furniture with them from home.
The senior, who can’t move, was allegedly saved on Sept. 1 by staff doing overnight checks at the Covenant Health facility.
Azocar says a caregiver was doing the rounds, only to find a pack of mice feeding on the dementia patient. Later, a nest of the rodents was located in her closet.
“One of the staff of that facility walked into this resident’s room and found mice nibbling on her face,” said Azocar, adding the patient has been treated and is recovering, though she remains emotionally distraught.
It’s a gruesome claim that already has Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne demanding answers.
“I must say I was very, very disappointed to learn of this this morning and I have a tremendous number of questions about what exactly is going on here,” said Horne.
The Minister immediately ordered Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health to conduct a care audit at the facility, which opened in 2008.
“This is completely unacceptable whatever the circumstances are and quality trumps all in the health system,” said Horne.
“We’ll be looking into exactly how this happened and of course making sure it never happens again. It’s completely unacceptable in this province and I won’t tolerate it.”
Strong words from the minister, but Friends of Medicare — no surprise — says the province is to blame for allowing staffing standards to slip to the point where patients become prey.
“I think it speaks loudly to a systematic issue with senior care in this province — there is not enough staff for one thing,” said Azocar.
“We have one staff for 15 dementia patients at night, and these are people who require ongoing care.”
Azocar says vermin problems have been ongoing for a year, and bed bugs have been an issue for the past nine months.