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Kendall Worth: How poor people looking out for one another saves the day after day surgery gets cancelled

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Meet Florence (not her real name). A couple of weeks ago Florence was scheduled to have day surgery. She went to the hospital on the day of the appointment, accompanied by Lori (also not her real name), who was there to make sure Florence got home safely after the surgery.

However, the surgery was cancelled!

While Florence and Lori were sitting in the OR waiting area at the hospital, and this was by the way after Florence registered and got admitted out front to have her surgery, two of the OR staff and the surgeon came out and told Florence “that we need to talk to you.”

Florence at that point got informed that “Lori cannot be the the person accompanying you home,” and the reason they gave her for that was that “Lori’s disability requiring her to use that walking stick has us concerned about your safety of you going home.”

“Under that circumstance we have no choice but to cancel your surgery for today,” they said. “If we have reason to believe that you are not safe going home with the person who is with you then we have the right to cancel the surgery.”  

So at that point they both walked out of the hospital mad. Lori felt she was discriminated against.

When Florence got home from the hospital on that day, the first thing she did was that she called her MLA and told them the situation. She explained everything and left nothing out while talking to the constituency assistant at her MLA office.

Very unfortunately the MLA office talking to the hospital staff and supervisors ended up going nowhere.

After the MLA office made a couple of calls to the hospital, Florence ended up getting a phone call from a hospital patient rep. The way Florence described it  the patient rep spoke to her in a raised voice and had little interest in listening or resolving things.

As I have mentioned in some of my earlier stories we all know that the Nova Scotia Health Authority has a policy saying “when you go into the hospital for day surgery, you have to have someone with you to accompany you home after surgery.”

And that policy also says “you as the patient are responsible for making those arrangements yourself.”

In Florence’s case, Lori is the only friend she has in her community. The story behind how Lori and Florence became friends is that they first met by standing in line at the food bank, then later when they met again in the laundry room they found out they live in the same apartment building.  

Both of them do go to the drop-ins and soup kitchens. However they are not friends with people they see at these places.

So now Florence is worried about how she is going to meet someone who is going to accompany her home on the day of surgery. Like many income assistance recipients her relationship with her family is not on best terms. The only social contacts she has in her community are people she sees at the food bank, soup kitchens and drop-ins. She is not friends with those people outside of these places.  

It turned out at this point  that I as the writer of this story ended up helping Florence find a solution to her problem.    

I remembered this story I had written for the Nova Scotia Advocate: Let’s find a solution for people living in poverty when they need day surgery.

And also that when I wrote an entirely different story, Making the best of life without much money, about Jenny and her friends, Jenny mentioned to me that “If I ever through my work of advocating for people on income assistance meet someone who is in need of a person to accompany home from surgery they would look at volunteering to do it.”   

So I ended up contacting Jenny and her friends and they volunteered to do it!

Florence recently had the chance to meet with them and Florence agreed to let them volunteer to accompany her home after she got to know them a bit.

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

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