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B.C. health minister 'looking into' case of Vancouver Island senior left without home care

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Jennifer Lush says the health-care system has let her 86-year-old mother down.

Marianne Lush is paraplegic, legally blind, and terminally ill with inoperable cancer. She relies on in-home care. But over the past week her caregivers have missed several shifts. Twice when they didn’t show up, the family wasn’t notified.

"Nobody showed up, I was not notified as a family member that my mom was not going to be getting care," recounted Jennifer on Wednesday outside her Saanich, B.C., medical practice.

Jennifer, who is a family doctor, just happened to go by her mother’s home to check on her.

"Had I not happened to check in on my mom, she would have been lying in bed, in pain, in withdrawal because she hadn't been given her medications on time, with no ability to help herself," said Jennifer.

Marianne has various caregivers. Some of them are employed by Island Health, while others are employed by Sidney Senior Care, which subcontracts for Island Health.

Sidney Senior Care says the incidents were isolated and were the result of miscommunication.

"When you’re dealing with thousands of seniors in the home-support system and thousands of caregivers, it is impossible for things to go perfectly 100 per cent of the time," the company said in a statement.

"Human error or miscommunication unfortunately will factor in at some point, and, of course, every industry is experiencing staffing issues due to COVID fallout."

Jennifer said she still plans to stick with the company going forward. But she does want to see the problems addressed.

“I understand that short-staffing occurs and there's pressures on the system, but there’s no excuse for not calling the family," she said.

She said the problem is really with the in-home care system as a whole – an industry which she says doesn't pay enough to attract workers compared to those working in care facilities.

She worries the situation with her mother represents problems across the system.

"How many seniors are out there in the system with no one to advocate for them? And that's what's really alarming to me to think: What would have happened in a different scenario?"

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday he was aware of what happened with Marianne.

"I'm looking into the case you've talked about and to the details," said Dix. "We’re certainly looking at that issue and I've asked Island Health to report to me on it."

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