Home care workers cite a slew of system failures in a letter to the Winnipeg widower who was denied palliative care

Eric De Schepper says it is outrage that his partner Katherine Ellis had to go without palliative care at home in the days of her death and that others have had the same experience.  (Submitted by Eric De Schepper - photo credit)

Eric De Schepper says it is outrage that his partner Katherine Ellis had to go without palliative care at home in the days of her death and that others have had the same experience. (Submitted by Eric De Schepper – photo credit)

A group of caregivers in Manitoba say they are being struck by delays that kept a Winnipeg woman from receiving palliative care services at her home before she died and says this isn’t the first time this has happened .

On Saturday, Katherine Ellis, 62, died after opting for palliative care at home last month after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in November.

Her partner, Eric De Schepper, said in the period between Elli’s return home in mid-January and her death, he was there for her without the home care promised when they left the hospital.

De Schepper received a letter on Thursday written by a group of concerned nurses who fear for the future of their profession.

“Thank you for going public because we can’t,” the letter said.

“Please know that you are not alone and that this is not an isolated case. Many of us have experienced this situation and are haunted by the faces of grieving families who have been given the responsibility to let us know that they no longer need our services.”

Alana Cole/CBC

Alana Cole/CBC

De Schepper said he filed a complaint with the Manitoba Ombudsman after Ellis’ death and named the Winnipeg regional health agency on the misconduct disclosure form.

He said his partner of decades was left lying on the same sheets for weeks without more than a sponge bath because De Schepper couldn’t help her out of bed on her own.

Every time he asked his palliative care coordinator for home care, he was told they didn’t have the resources to send staff, De Schepper said.

“It’s an outrage. People have to say something about it. If this letter is true, that is unacceptable. That’s dehumanizing. That’s disrespectful. This is misconduct. And that’s another reason I submitted [a complaint]’ said De Schepper in an interview on Thursday.

One of the Winnipeg-based home nurses who wrote the letter said scheduling concerns and work issues raised by health workers and home nurses are not taken seriously and hurt their patients the most.

The worker, who does not give CBC her name because she fears it will affect her career, says she has a co-worker who was left in her office for five hours without work.

“This was right around the time that Eric and his wife were without home care. It’s almost criminal.”

Submitted by Eric De Schepper

Submitted by Eric De Schepper

The nursing assistant said when she has a cancellation, she often has nothing to do because her schedule isn’t immediately filled with another home visit.

“There shouldn’t be any downtime,” she said.

CBC News reached out to the Winnipeg Regional Health Board for comment Thursday night in light of the letter, but did not immediately receive a response.

Last week, a spokesman said efforts are being made to review schedules to optimize and increase efficiencies, while utilizing contract services and offering additional hours and overtime to supplement staffing levels as needed.

The home care worker added that if one day their loved one is not receiving home care, she has seen cases where next of kin have not been notified.

“It’s a recipe for disaster. They should call the contact or the customer, and often they don’t do either,” she said.

The home nurse says she and others have tried to bring about change to improve working conditions and patient care but are being looked down on.

“I’ve exhausted almost every single avenue, and it got terminated because we’re just health workers. They don’t respect us, they dismiss our concerns,” she said.

De Schepper says that shouldn’t happen.

“I find it heartbreaking that these people have to deal with this. It seems to me that it is disrespectful in many ways. I have no words to express my outrage.”


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