Health system crisis: When traveling for care is the only option but fast care is needed

When it comes to an accident, speed is paramount in ensuring patients have the best chance of recovery, but with a healthcare system in crisis, speedy care is not always the case.

Micheal Groulx, 32, a small business owner from Angus, Ont., was framing a house in Collingwood last Wednesday when his family said he fell 12 to 15 feet onto a concrete ground.

He sustained a traumatic brain injury, and while there were people there to help, the family soon discovered there were no local ICU beds available.

“He was taken to a hospital in Collingwood, and they didn’t have the proper machinery or testing devices to move forward, so they had to transfer him to a hospital, and unfortunately, no hospitals anywhere closer than London had an ICU bed, ” said Michael’s sister-in-law Carlee Lewis.

Lewis told Global News it would be almost eight hours later that he received the needed open brain surgery.

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“The surgeon called my sister and me when we were driving to the hospital in the snowstorm, and the surgeon let her know that there might not be a point in doing surgery, and it’s her call. She made the call and said she would want to fight for her son,” she said.

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Number of sick children transferred to open Ontario hospital beds hit high in November

On Monday morning, Lewis said doctors gave them the “devastating” news that Micheal would not recover.

“It is heartbreaking because from everything I’m being told, and I’m reading, the faster you do the surgery, the more chance of survival there is. He had to wait from the time of the accident to maybe six to eight hours to get the surgery,” Lewis said.

“It’s just so unfair that not every hospital is equipped for these things, and I know we can always look back in hindsight and say what could or should have happened, but I think it’s just unfortunate that he couldn’t get the surgery immediately. ”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the family told Global News that the family was waiting to take him off the ventilator to keep him alive in order to donate his organs.

While Lewis says the hospital staff in London have been amazing, he is upset by their family’s situation.

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A spokesperson for Collingwood General and Marine Hospital said it has a Level 2 ICU and that a patient with a traumatic brain injury would require a higher level of care.

Micheal and Charlotte Groulx from Angus Ontario on their wedding day.

Supplied by Alex Wilson

Lewis said this news has been hard for the whole family, especially her sister Charlotte, 26, who married Micheal in July last year.

“She’s had a really tough life, and meeting Mike turned that toughness into happiness.”

Micheal turned 32 this last Saturday, and the couple also shares a 22-month-old son named Damon.

“I couldn’t say enough amazing things about him. He is the best — the kind of dad every man aspires to be. He’s so hands-on and loves that little boy so much,” Lewis said.

Micheal and Charlotte Groulx from Angus Ontario with their son Damon.

Supplied by Alex Wilson

The family has set up a GoFundMe to assist with funeral arrangements and support Micheal’s wife, Charlotte, who has been a stay-at-home mom to care for their young toddler.

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“I really want her to, between the GoFundMe and the support of all of us as her family, just focus on her grieving process at the moment and don’t have to worry about how she will pay her rent.”

“Everyone’s generosity is so appreciated, and she’s very overwhelmed by everybody’s support.”

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‘Mind boggling’: ERs big and small across Canada struggle amid staffing crisis

Staffing shortages have been an ongoing problem in Ontario as the country deals with a nationwide shortage of nurses and other healthcare workers, leading to long wait times and causing several hospitals to temporarily reduce operations and stretch capacity.

In October, Global News reported that hospitals across the province were operating at critical staffing levels while dealing with an increase in many respiratory illnesses.

Orgne, which facilitates a portion of patient transfers in Ontario, said while it tracks the conditions people have when being transferred, it does not have data on why patients are transferred.

In an emailed statement responding to Global News’ request for comment about patients needing to be transferred out of the region to receive critical care, the Ministry of Health said in an email that building health human resource capacity is key is an important part of the government’s Your Health plan.

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“Our government knows that emergency department volumes have been increasing year over year and we are not ok with the status quo. That is why we have taken action by investing in health human resources, freeing up beds across the province and expanding 911 models of care to address waiting times and keeping Ontario open,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Our government has taken action to grow our healthcare workforce in the short, medium and long term. In October 2022, we announced we were working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) to break down barriers for international educated healthcare workers so they could register and practice in Ontario faster. Just this last month, we announced our new As of Right rules, allowing health care workers registered in other provinces and territories to immediately start working and caring for people in Ontario.”

Responding to the situation, the NDP health critic criticized the Ford government’s move to rely on private health clinics

“My heart absolutely breaks for the people who suffer when ICUs don’t have enough staff to function. While Ford appeals Bill 124 in court and pours money into private clinics, Ontarians are in pain. We deserve a caring and compassionate government that would do everything in their power to strengthen our publicly funded and publicly delivered health care system,” said Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas.

— with files from Global News’ Teresa Wright

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Click to play video: 'Ontario government unveils multi-plan phase to address hospital surgery backlog'

Ontario government unveils multi-plan phase to address hospital surgery backlog

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