Woman complains of hospital fee “bullying”

by Laura Keil


McBride Hospital / RMG file photo

A woman said the way she was treated by McBride hospital administration when her mother was brought to the hospital was “horrible” and amounts to bullying.

Terry Jensen’s 86-year-old mother was released from hospital February 6th after 10 days there for treatment of heel cracks, but was re-admitted the following day due to her weakened condition, which Jensen blames on no physiotherapy.

Her mother lives on her own and Jensen said she was able to get around her house on her own before the hospital stay.

When her mother was brought back to the hospital, Jensen was called by administrative personnel into an office, she said. Since Jensen had spent nearly all night at her mother’s place she’d only gotten about two hours of sleep.

“They started to ream me out (saying) ‘Why didn’t you get this paperwork in for Home Care 18 months ago?’”

Jensen had no idea why the hospital referenced 18 months since her mother had not been in the hospital at that time and her mother had refused Home Care in the past as she was still capable of living on her own.

Jensen said they told her that if they didn’t get her mother’s income tax, T4as and power of attorney so they could proceed with Home Care they would look at taking it to the public trustee and seizing assets, which Jensen said was “very scary.”

“We share many of the assets as joint tenure, so that puts my income in jeopardy and my home,” Jensen said.

Jensen notes her mother is a Canadian citizen and has valid health insurance that is paid up. She also notes she does not have power of attorney that would allow her to override her mother’s decision to refuse Home Care.

The following morning, less than 24 hours since the hospital first requested documentation, the social worker at the hospital left a message on Jensen’s answering machine saying if she didn’t get the paperwork in by that afternoon, she would be on the hook for $1600 a day (The Goat listened to the entirety of the message and, when we called the number given, the person identified themselves as being from Northern Health).

The Goat requested an interview with McBride hospital administration but were not provided access.

Northern Health Communications person Eryn Collins said they can’t speak to specific patient circumstances for privacy reasons, but said fees are charged for a variety of services including home support, respite care, and long-term care based on provincial legislation. She noted policies for fees are applied uniformly across the health region and facilities do not have “local” policies. The Ministry of Health sets the guidelines for fees which are based on a person’s income level determined by their income tax return.

Collins said there are not specific timelines for providing documentation, but she noted that the maximum fee would be applied if no documentation was given. When asked what would occur if a family did not provide documents immediately (before services were rendered) she wrote the following:

“Fees MAY be charged retroactively, however our Northern Health care teams and case managers work with individuals and/or their families to ensure the relevant paperwork is submitted and in order, in an effort to avoid such a circumstance.”

Jensen said she understands fees are charged for certain services, like Home Care, but that threatening her with giant fees for each day the paperwork is not filed is “atrocious treatment.”

She thinks greater awareness of the fees and paperwork involved and a kinder approach would have made all the difference.

“Patients, the family- we’re already upset. All they had to do was ask nicely,” she said. “Just the manner it was done was horrible.”

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