July 16th, 2024

Broken elevator leaving LTC residents feel like prisoners

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on July 9, 2024.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Covenant Health says it is working to resolve an issue with an elevator that stopped working on June 14 at St. Michael's Health Centre which long-term care residents and family members say has impacted them.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Residents and family members say a broken elevator at St. Michael’s Health Centre is impacting long-term care residents on the second and third floors in the east wing, leaving some feeling like prisoners.

The elevator on the east side of the facility that takes patients, visitors and St. Michael’s staff to upper floors stopped working on June 14.

The Herald was told by a family member of a resident that a sign last week on its door stated it could be inoperable for up to two months.

One of five residents who has reached out to local media said Friday they feel trapped in their homes, being unable to leave the facility to do hair appointments or take care of other matters.

The resident said the group of five don’t want to be identified.

Covenant Health on Monday said the cause of the elevator issue was found in the control board that operates its doors and St. Michael’s learned that the required parts are obsolete.

Refurbished parts were sourced but didn’t work and have been sent for repair, a spokesperson for Covenant Health told The Herald in an email.

“A modernized control board has been ordered and is scheduled to arrive in three to four weeks,” said the spokesperson, adding the facility has preemptively ordered modernized door sensors.

The same work will be completed proactively on the west elevator, says Covenant Health which continues to source refurbished components as a temporary solution.

The long-term resident said people who need to be taken out of their rooms for dialysis or other medical treatments are removed on what she called a sled which is hauled down the stairs.

Upon returning from hospital, the patients don’t go back to their rooms – they are being housed on the main floor until the elevator is fixed, the person said.

Covenant Health said “any resident requiring urgent medical care, including transfer to hospital, will continue to receive the same high-level quality care they are accustomed to.”

The resident said those with significant others are missing family visits because their partners don’t have the ability to climb stairs. Covenant Health told the Herald that residents and loved ones remain connected through in-person and digital visits and special accommodations are being made to support impacted people.

“The majority of partners aren’t strong enough to get to the second floor,” said the resident, who gets around on an electric wheelchair that can be dismantled into three pieces. Others devices used by residents weigh between 400 and 500 lbs. and would not be possible to be hauled down or up the stairs for their use, the resident said.

The resident said St. Michael’s staff have to haul all food and supplies for residents up the stairs from the basement, including a portable oxygen tank this person uses which has to be filled in the facility.

Covenant stated that “dedicated staff” at the facility “will continue providing meal and laundry services and recreational activities to the impacted residents. Additional staff have been scheduled to help with food, linen and laundry deliveries, and external providers like pharmacy and good and services deliveries will continue as usual.”

The resident said there are 52 beds on the second floor and all residents except for about four are incapacitated.

“We’re stuck,” said the resident, expressing concern for the well being of a 93-year-old there.

“How long do you have when you’re 93? We’re screwed,” said the person.

Another caller, whose mother is at St. Mike’s said “it’s causing a lot of chaos.”

A daughter of a resident told The Herald in an email her mother, who lives on the second floor, “is trapped there and is no longer able to go out for rides to enjoy the outside world. She is no longer able to navigate the 22 stairs required to go to the main floor. Dialysis patients, a transferring resident and a dead body were each taken down to main floor on a plastic ‘medsled,'” the person wrote.

“Another patient had to cancel a specialist appointment because of her disability and the broken elevator. She now has to wait for another six months for the next appointment.”

The family member said bathtubs in the long-term care section have been non-functional for years, adding “I was told bathtub parts are obsolete. Secondly it took maintenance two months to finally get warm water into mother’s bathroom sink. Staff had sent in requisitions for the repair and still only cold water! I called maintenance myself and got a voice recording from someone in Medicine Hat.”

More than 200 members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees work at the centre in general support services and nursing care. A union representative said Friday the elevator problem “has not yet reached my radar.”

The Covenant spokesperson said St. Michael’s “apologizes for the inconvenience this is causing residents, loved ones and staff. We are grateful for the support and patience we have received as we work diligently to resolve this issue.”

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