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Canadian Patient Goes on Hospital Odyssey over Broken Arm

On Tuesday, doctors at Brampton's Civil Hospital told Christine Ford of Georgetown what she already knew - that the excruciating pain she's been experiencing since last week is due to a fracture at the end of her right upper arm bone. And that she needs surgery. But she can't get it until June 27.

"The top of the humerus (upper arm bone) is broken off," explained Ford's husband, Ross Welsh, a Toronto firefighter.

The 40-year-old jewellery and fabric artist had been taken by ambulance to Georgetown Hospital when she fell off her bike Saturday afternoon. The accident left her with swelling on her head, a blackened eye, a knocked-out tooth, bruised and swollen legs, scrapes all over her body and terrible pain, the worst emanating from her arm.

An odyssey involving three hospitals followed. Ford's sister, Barbara Ford-Pimento, drove her from Georgetown Hospital to Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital (both part of Halton Healthcare) and finally to Brampton Civic Hospital (part of William Osler Health System).

Even so, Ford is still being cared for by relatives and has not yet had the surgery she's been told she needs. She was not assessed by a fracture clinic until Tuesday.

"The Georgetown hospital told us she needed surgery immediately and that her pain would only get worse," says Ford-Pimento. But the Georgetown hospital didn't have the facilities.

After a wait of about three hours, Ford-Pimento was told that the hospital had not been able to arrange the surgery elsewhere but nothing else could be done there.

Ford-Pimento said that at one point, a doctor at Georgetown Hospital turned to her and put his hands on her shoulders and told her to "read between the lines. . . that there wasn't anything he could do but if I took her to Brampton or Oakville they are obligated to help her."

Cindy McDonell, chief operating officer at Georgetown Hospital, said she could not talk specifically about any patient's experience. But she says hospital policy does not allow any emergency room doctor to advise a patient to just show up at another hospital. "That is not part of our process," she says.

As they were leaving, Ford-Pimento said they were told by Georgetown staff that Ford had an appointment at the Brampton Hospital Fracture clinic on Thursday. The clinic can decide if surgery is warranted. But Ford-Pimento didn't feel they could wait because her sister was in so much pain.

They drove to Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. A doctor there told them there was no one able to handle "a break that bad" and they would have to go to Brampton Civic. There, they waited about four hours before being told that nothing could be done before the fracture clinic appointment on June 16.

So Ford-Pimento took her sister to her home in Ancaster, where she and Christine's husband have been helping to care for her.

The pain continued to be so bad, despite the pain medication prescribed by Brampton Hospital, that the family called an ambulance to take Christine back to Georgetown Hospital on Sunday. She was given more pain medication and her fracture clinic consultation was moved up to Tuesday.

Lorraine Lynch, manager, public relations at William Osler told the Star she could not comment on individual patient experiences at the hospital.



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