Family shares agonizing process for Indigenous woman seeking COVID-19 test
VICTORIA -- The family of an Ahousaht First Nation woman is speaking out about how difficult it was for the 68-year-old to get a COVID-19 test while experiencing painful symptoms.
Darlene Dick first went to the the Ahousaht clinic on Nov. 26. She was feeling ill and had symptoms of the coronavirus. Instead of being given a COVID-19 test, her family claims, she was told she had flu symptoms and was sent home.
“My mom couldn’t even get up and go to the bathroom on her own at home. She was in so much pain all over her body ... and hot and cold cramping,” said her daughter Ina Dick.
Her husband Alec Dick said she hadn’t eaten for five or six days at this point and she was very ill.
“Nauseated at times, she’d go from hot to cold, cramping up and headaches, her body was sore,” he said.
The family decided she needed to go to Tofino General Hospital for a test on Nov. 28, and made the trip by water taxi.
“She went from bad to worse overnight,” said Ina Dick. “She went to the hospital on Saturday and all of us were like. ‘They need to test you for COVID.”
At the hospital, the family said, she was given a test, but was told to return home to Ahousaht.
Then, things deteriorated again.
“We called a first responder who sent her down right away and she went to the hospital,” said Alec Dick.
Once she arrived back at the hospital, the family said, only then was she told the results of her COVID-19 test.
“She phoned me crying, saying she had COVID-19,” said her other daughter Molina Dick. “She couldn’t even talk. Why did we wait so long for the results?”
Instead of being sent to one of the COVID-19 hospitals in Victoria or Nanaimo, she was sent to a hotel to isolate, even though she was fragile and very ill.
“Lucky I was here to meet the ambulance ... and only to find out she was in a (motel),” said Ina Dick. “I was shocked. You put my mom in a motel room? Why did you put my mom in a motel room?”
Alec Dick said his wife was in no condition to be by herself, and thankfully his daughter stayed with her.
“She was very weak,” he said. “Another doctor saw her and told her she is a very sick woman and she’ll be sent out to Nanaimo and I thank that lady doctor for that.”
On Dec. 1, she was sent to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital where she has been for eight days in the intensive care unit.
“It is still scary to know my mom is in the ICU,” said Molina Dick. “It’s day by day for us, good days, bad days for my mom.”
Island Health told CTV News in a statement that it “acknowledges that the care and support provided did not meet the expectations and needs of this patient and we respect the family’s concern for the well-being of their loved one.”
Staff at Island Health have met with the family to listen and learn from their experience and these conversations are ongoing, according to the statement.
Her son Curtis Dick said he’s thankful for all the health-care workers who have taken care of his mother, but concerned about the way the process played out.
“If a family that didn’t have this connection to speak out about their loved one ... could we have lost our mother in the system that has failed? We need to change the system to have a better reflection of patient care rather than just a patient number,” he said.
The family hopes that talking about Darlene Dick’s situation will help ensure it doesn’t happen to another person.
“We are not in any way shape or form looking to blame anyone, but to make sure everyone is treated equally and professionally,” said Alec Dick.
Alec has also tested positive for COVID-19 and said being away from his wife is difficult.
“I’m just hoping that time will just fly by so I can be with my wife again,” he said.
Island Health said it has heard the family’s concerns and is reviewing what it has learned through the discussion.
“We are committed to ensuring clearer communication and processes as it relates to transport and transfers across the care continuum for COVID-19 positive individuals,” the health authority said.