featured Healthcare Poverty

Kendall Worth: Not rich enough? Getting a ride home after day surgery

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – First a bit about where this story idea is coming from. I talked with four different people in my community who are income assistance recipients. Two of them have to go into the hospital for day surgery at some point, the other two recently had day surgery.

Transportation after the surgery is the problem they all have in common.

Community Services will pay for the cab for a person who is getting released from day surgery if the person  cannot take the bus home. But finding someone to accompany you home that the hospital approves of is difficult.

All four people in this story are on income assistance and receive the standard monthly $535 for shelter and a $275 personal allowance. They were receiving a transportation allowance until October, and now they have the free bus pass.

All four of them have been told by a hospital social worker, and two were told by their doctor as well, that the person who is accompanying home from the hospital on the day of their surgery should be a financially better off friend or contact.

However,  their only contacts in their community are people they know through attending the various soup kitchens and drop-ins that poor people go to. They told me that they are not interested in being friends with most of these people, “because we find them not like-minded.”

The people who were already in for day surgery had an offer from someone they know in the community who also lives in poverty. The person is on CPP disability, and offered to accompany them home on the day of surgery. They say that the hospital social worker discouraged that man from doing that, because if anything was to happen on the way home, his income level, according to the hospital social worker, would limit that persons resources to be held liable.   

The reality is that the person in the community who is a friend of theirs is only getting $910 on his CPP. This, as we all know, is no better than income assistance.

The reality is that there there are like-minded and responsible people out there who live in poverty.

The two women who have yet to go in for day surgery at the hospital have a male friend who lives in their same building and also lives in poverty. All three of them are on income assistance. He as their neighbour, and he is offering to accompany them home in the cab on the day of the surgery.

Just like the first two I talked about who already went into the hospital, the hospital social worker and their doctors are discouraging this for the same reason.  I met the neighbour in question, to me he seems like a responsible and like-minded person even though he is on income assistance and lives in poverty.

Due to his limited income, he may not have the ability and/or resources to be held liable if anything was to happen to them on their way home from surgery, is exactly what the hospital social worker told them.

These women ask: “How are we supposed to meet someone who is in a better financial situation when our only affordable venues of getting out in our community is attending the places where poor people go, like when standing in line at the food bank, or going to the soup kitchens and drop-ins?”

Then they went on to say, “we are not going to try dangerous online dating like the person you talked about in this story.”

Anyway, the first two out of these four found a solution. They approached some local churches and talked about the situation to the clergymen. The first two got help that way. As for the two women who are about to go in, that is one option they are exploring.     

I strongly believe that the person who accompanies the patient home from the hospital in a taxi should be any friend of the patient, regardless of income level or where the  money comes from, as long as he or she is a responsible person. The four people I talked with also agree with this.

Kendall Worth is a tireless anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

See also: It takes a village. Kendall Worth with good news for woman going into surgery

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make it possible to pay writers such as Kendall Worth for their important stories.

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  1. I find this highly offensive that someone’s income level would disqualify them from helping another person in need. People on ESIA rarely have close relationships with family members and have limited social contacts due to poverty and/or illness and all the complications that causes. I have a friend whose CPP cheque is higher than my ESIA cheque and when I accompanied him to the hospital for day surgery and had him stay with me for the required 24 hours afterwards, no one questioned my income level. What’s particularly astounding about your story is the fact that not only was he grilled about his friend’s income level but they knew I was in a wheelchair! So if they had no problem with someone in my fragile physical condition and poverty-stricken, why are these people having this problem? My friend paid for my cab to the hospital and our cab back to my apartment.

    It was an ordeal for me, however, due to my serious chronic health problems, and I’ve had to tell my friend that if he needs a companion for the hospital again, I won’t be able to help him. Fortunately, he can afford to pay for a homecare worker from an agency to be at the hospital with him (we looked into all the details and cost) and of course, he can come stay with me for the 24 hours afterwards.

  2. Erica, when you said in your above comment “Fortunately, he can afford to pay for a home care worker from an agency to be at the hospital with him (we looked into all the details and cost) and of course, he can come stay with me for the 24 hours afterwards.” I must say that you friend was so lucky to find an angcey to accompany him home from the hospital in the cab.

    Their are many other people in the community who have been told by home care agencies that their home care workers will only meet them at their homes fallowing surgery. These people were told that home care workers dose not meet them at the hospital and/either drive the patent in their personal vechcials or accompany them home in the cab.

    These same people were also told that on the first day, one the patent arrives back at their home fallowing surgery the longest the home care worker is allowed to stay with them is three hours.

    Their is another story about to go in the Nova Scotia Advocate soon talking about this.

    1. “I must say that you friend was so lucky to find an angcey to accompany him home from the hospital in the cab.” I said he could do this NEXT time when I won’t be able to help him. I helped him as I described, the first time. In anticipation of the next time, I called every homecare agency in the phonebook to find out if they offered this service and how much it would cost. You book them for this service the same as you would book them to come to your home to cook, clean, bathe you, etc. I makes no difference where they provide the service. If you can afford it, you can even hire a private nurse. It’s possible these people were receiving homecare paid for by the government such as happens when you are on ESIA and not hiring them privately, in which case, they won’t provide this service as it’s not part of your regimented, pre-approved care plan. When you’re paying it yourself with your own money, there should be no such restrictions on the service. Obviously, it will cost a lot of money to have someone with you at the hospital and then 24 hours afterwards. Rich people can live solitary lives too so they would be paying for this service just the same if needed.

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