A recent transition in home support services to in-house care from Island Health has led one Saanich family to implore that continuity of care is maintained as their concerns about a family member’s care grow.
Murray Hindley, a 65-year-old quadriplegic, is described by his family as driven and a fighter.
On Aug. 1, 1999 – two days before his 45th birthday – Hindley was injured in a bicycle accident that left him quadriplegic. He was told he’d be on a ventilator for the rest of his life but slowly regained some movement in his fingers, toes and legs and eventually came off the ventilator.
Hindley returned home from a care facility in February 2000 and returned to work as a systems analyst with the Ministry of Environment 14 months after his injury. He was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee award for doing so.
“Returning to work allowed me to be a contributing member of society and being home with family and friends has allowed me to enjoy a quality of life I would not otherwise have had, had I been placed in a facility in Vancouver,” Hindley said.
For the majority of the past 20 years, Hindley said his home care was contracted to Beacon Community Services, overseen by Island Health. He had multiple care workers who saw him for 5.5 hours a day – 3.5 hours in the morning for bowel care, transferring him into his chair, showering and breakfast and two, one-hour evening shifts. Assisted walking twice a day was also part of his program, and according to his doctor, has been instrumental in maintaining his health.
Island Health took over care in November 2019. A March 2019 statement from Island Health said home care clients will “continue to receive the same level of home support services” and “consistency in care workers as the new care model is implemented.”
On Jan. 9, Hindley said he was told he would be losing eight of his nine trained workers with the shift to the new model beginning Feb. 3.
Hindley said one of the workers was physically unable to walk him due to her height. He was then told his transfers to his chair would require special equipment and that walking is suspended until Island Health brings in a platform walker for him to use.
After complaining to Island Health, Hindley said two workers are now sent in for every shift to assist with transfers, something Hindley believes is an unnecessary expense to taxpayers. His wife, Joan, has been doing his walking since Feb. 3 in addition to any care required outside of the 5.5 hours.
“It is to my detriment that my walking has been suspended and adds one more thing for my already overburdened wife to do,” Hindley said. “It is also a great stress going through a whole new array of caregivers. Every complex care client has unique needs which take time to learn.”
Hindley also said he is being pushed to use his wife and three grown sons to do backup care.
In a statement, Island Health said “all clients who receive home support services are asked to identify a backup plan, which includes identifying a person who is reliable and able to provide care if home support services are temporarily unavailable.”
Home support could become unavailable due to different situations like weather, flu outbreaks and staff shortages. If no reliable person is available as a backup plan, non-emergency 911 would be called, Island Health said.
Murray’s doctor, Dr. Tania Wall, also wrote to Island Health to advocate for the family.
“[Murray] and his family have worked extremely hard to keep him healthy, to limit his spasticity, to keep up his strength,” Wall said in the letter. “This has been achieved through a rigorous routine of self care including range of motion exercises, brief walks, bowel management and urinary management. He needs a team for this, and a team had been trained and created and I believe was instrumental in maintaining the impressive current level of Murray’s health.”
Wall noted both Joan and Murray’s wellness have begun to suffer, and that changes to Murray’s care would be a detriment to his health.
Island Health has said that while they cannot speak to specific clients or their care, they are working with the Hindleys to address their concerns. Island Health also said care hours have not been reduced and that sometimes care programs are put on hold while new measures are put in place for the safety of the client and staff.