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Health minister directs health authority to look into home-support no-show

Island Health says it’s following up to determine what happened and ensure the established process is followed when there are last-minute changes to scheduled home support visits
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Marianne Lush, 86, with her sister-in-law, Janie Mehlhorn. Lush is ­terminally ill and requires home support for her daily needs. VIA JENNIFER LUSH

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said he has directed Island Health to look into the case of an 86-year-old paraplegic blind senior who was left alone when a home support worker failed to show up for a scheduled shift twice last week.

The health minister was asked Wednesday about a Times Colonist story about Marianne Lush, who was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in August and wants to die at home, but can’t rely on home support workers to show up.

Her daughter, family physician Dr. Jennifer Lush, only discovered the no-show problem Thursday morning because she dropped in to her mom’s for coffee before work. Otherwise, she said her mother would have been stuck in bed without ­necessary medications and in pain. A home-support worker also didn’t turn up on Sunday.

“We’re certainly looking into that issue and I’ve asked Island Health to report to me on it,” said Dix, who did not name the client to protect her privacy.

Marianne Lush is a client of Island Health, which subcontracts to Sidney Senior Care for home-support workers to do hours health authority workers are not able to do.

Jennifer Lush told the Times Colonist that even though her mother’s home-support visits are designated “critical” priority by the health authority, nobody called her when the support worker didn’t arrive for a 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift, and her mother is too frail and her eyesight is too poor to use a phone.

Island Health said in a statement on Wednesday that it is aware of the situation and acknowledges the family’s “frustration and concern about their loved one’s care.” The health authority said it is following up to determine what happened and ensure the established process is followed when there are last-minute changes to scheduled home support visits.

There is a process in place for contracted providers to notify Island Health if they are not able to fulfill a scheduled visit so Island Health’s team can find ways to do the scheduled visit, the health authority said. “It’s unclear why this process was not followed in this situation.”

The statement said Island Health is facing the same shortage of health-care workers as other jurisdictions across the country, and is recruiting for community health workers in the region.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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