A homeless man was discharged from Langley Memorial Hospital, put into a taxi and sent to Hope’s emergency shelter despite shelter workers saying they didn’t have room for him.
“We don’t take in people from other communities as policy. We have enough people of our own to take care of,” said Gerry Dyble, executive director of the Hope and Area Transition Society, which opened an emergency shelter last October.
Neither the patient nor the shelter agreed to the transfer, which occurred near the end of January, he added.
“They called and we said no, we don’t have room. Usually the conversation ends there, but they called back again and we said no again. Then the taxi arrived with him in it.”
Staff had to call 9-1-1, Dyble said. “He couldn’t even stand up. We’re not an acute care centre.”
The man was taken to Fraser Canyon Hospital, but he was already medically stable, so he was discharged back to the shelter.
Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said staff made every effort to find the man a spot in his home community of Surrey, but none was available.
“Our social workers do everything they can to support a discharged patient’s transition home. In cases where the individual does not have a home to return to, our staff work with them to find a suitable alternative and support them in their transition once they agree to it,” Juma said. “This has been a challenge across our region as we continue to care for our homeless population.”
Fraser Health has been under fire recently after two patients were discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital and sent by taxi to a shelter in Chilliwack. Mayor Ken Popove demanded to know why that was appropriate, given the patients still needing medical care and the fact Chilliwack has its own homeless population to support.
Juma said the man was eventually transferred back to a shelter in Surrey.
Dyble said local hospital administrators have brought the issue to the attention of those in charge.
Said Hope Mayor Peter Robb at a council meeting earlier this month: “They’ve been told, in no circumstances to repeat this policy, and make sure all the staff has been notified at Fraser Health that [Hope] will not accept released patients from [other] hospitals.”
With the weather warming up, Dyble said the public may see more homeless people out in the community, in tents at the river or in other spots in town, and that the society’s homeless outreach team is available to help those in need.