My mother, Elaine Grant has lived in what is now called Michael Garron Hospital (formerly Toronto East General Hospital) for eight years. The Complex Continuing Care Unit, or “J5” is her home. Approximately two weeks ago everyone on J5 was informed that the unit is to be closed. In other words, all of its residents have to move. We are devastated. My Mom has described the feeling as “living in a nightmare”. I want the hospital’s upper management and the Ministry of Health to hear our story because their decision, which at least appears to be rooted in saving dollars, impacts real people with very complex needs.
My daughter does not remember her Gran being able to walk. She is turning fourteen. This is because in 2004 my Mom had a benign tumour removed from the base of her brainstem. We were warned that this surgery threatened to do what the tumour might if left alone. With time we could see how this warning proved true: Mom lost her gag reflex and so is tube fed, has a tracheotomy so that her lungs can be routinely suctioned, and is paralyzed. Over the years, including as recent as this spring, she has struggled with infection that leads to the need for intensive care and ventilator intervention.
In the letter that we received from the hospital and at a recent family meeting, we were encouraged to consider moving our loved one “into the community”, meaning a home situation supported by CCAC. Hear me when I say, had home care ever been a feasible option, we would have pursued it. However, my Mom’s level of acuity is such that a hospital setting is her only option. Even nursing homes do not offer the care that she requires. And just so you know, my husband’s Multiple Sclerosis is forcing us to equip our house in such a way that will enable us to stay in it for as long as possible. We believe in the value of CCAC.
The move to J5 eight years ago came after a long wait. After two years we were told the waiting list was to be scrapped. This resulted in a letter to our MPP and weekly phone calls to the hospital social worker. At the time we understood the need to close a waiting list. What we could not comprehend was cutting off those who had been patiently and exclusively waiting for a bed at Michael Garron Hospital. You see, my brother and I, along with our families, live around the corner from the hospital. In many ways moving to J5 was a move “into the community” and very much for the mental health of our Mom. And so, we actively chose to fight in a kind and persistent way. With this new situation, we plan to do the same.
Michael Garron Hospital is currently moving a number of fully ventilated patients onto J5 from Sunnybrook Hospital. So in that sense, it is not really closing. There is ample medical evidence that my mother is a patient whose needs match the requirements for hospital care. We know there are facilities across Ontario that provide Complex Continuing Care, but we need to be near her.
Elaine Grant is a woman of compassion and grace. Despite her massive chart, she is an exceptional patient. If she has concerns about her care, she addresses the issues carefully and in writing. I would completely understand if she were to complain about the weight of her challenges, and yet she never does. I am inspired by her. This might not be surprising given that I am her daughter, but if you would like to hear similar sentiments from people maybe more removed, I could provide a very long list of references. The truth is this: my mother is not a nameless, faceless statistic. Elaine Grant is a person with real health vulnerabilities who should not be displaced. She has suffered tremendous loss, but losing her home should not be added to that list.