A 99-year-old grandfather who only speaks Punjabi has regularly been without translation services, or access to family who can translate, while at hospital in Red Deer, says his family.
Alberta Health Services said individual cases can’t be discussed due to patient confidentiality, but insisted translation services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Other resources, including iPads on all units at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, are also available to connect patients with family, said AHS.
The man’s granddaughter, Simran Chawla, who did not want her grandfather’s name used, said he was taken to Red Deer hospital by ambulance late Monday night.
Her mother, Bhupinder Chawla, stayed by his side, day and night, until early Wednesday evening, when she was told she had to leave and could only visit between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“He has been in hospital before, but he’s never been in hospital alone. There has always been a family member with him all the time, just to make sure he knows what’s going on,” Chawla said.
“We don’t ask for anything. We just sit there. That’s all my mom wanted, was for her to be able to stay there,” the granddaughter said Friday.
Her mother was told COVID-19 hospital regulations required her to leave. But Chawla said her grandfather tested negative for the coronavirus.
AHS said it recognizes that visiting restrictions are challenging for patients and families.
“They are necessary however, to minimize any risk of transmission of COVID-19, and to protect both patients and staff,” said AHS in a statement.
“We are working with families to permit visitors under limited exceptions that are permitted under the public health order from Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. Exceptions will be made for visitors attending to a patient who is dying or a few other specific cases.”
Chawla said when her mother returned at 10 a.m. on Thursday, her grandfather’s blood pressure was extremely high.
“When my mom asked why they hadn’t given him any medicine, they said he didn’t take it. Well, of course he didn’t take it. He didn’t know what medicine he was being given, or what was going on, because there were no translator services offered to him.
“They hadn’t even given us a call — nothing.”
She said overnight on Thursday he was given pain medication without notifying his family.
“My mom said to the nurses — don’t give him any pain medicine. He reacts to pain medicine. He has a very tough time waking up because he’s old and weak.”
She said the head nurse and hospital management were contacted, as well as the police, who told her that staff would call if there were any changes overnight and the family could stay in contact through video chats.
“There were no FaceTime calls. They didn’t inform us when things changed, and there were no translator services.”
She said he is expected to remain in hospital until Tuesday.
“We can’t leave him there. We don’t know what they’re going to do. If you don’t speak (Punjabi), how do you even know he has pain. What is he asking for? Is he asking for water, or is he complaining?”
“I really want the public to know what hospitals are doing right now and how people are being treated,” Chawla said.
Frank Bauer, executive director at Central Alberta Refugee Effort, said in recent years, fewer translators from his agency have been needed to help clients at the hospital because of improvements to the translation service available by phone for Red Deer hospital patients.
AHS said it has been, and will continue, to work with families on a case-by-case basis to accommodate as much visitor access as is possible under the exceptions identified in the public health orders.