Two homeless patients from Surrey were sent in a taxi to the Salvation Army Shelter according to a letter from Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)

Two homeless patients from Surrey were sent in a taxi to the Salvation Army Shelter according to a letter from Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)

Fraser Health slammed for discharging homeless patients into taxis bound for Chilliwack

Mayor Popove asks Fraser Health to address concerns he has about this happening twice last month

Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove is demanding action and answers from Fraser Health after two patients were discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital and transported by taxi to a Chilliwack homeless shelter.

Popove is asking Fraser Health officials in a March 5 letter to address the “serious concerns” he has about the unacceptable practice of discharging patients into taxis destined for local shelters.

“A homeless shelter is no place for a person with health concerns or special medical needs,” Popove wrote. “Discharging patients into homeless shelters when they still require some level of care is not an acceptable practice.”

Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said they have received the letter from the Chilliwack mayor and are looking into the specific concerns.

A “shelter cot” is not suitable for a recently discharged patient, the mayor argued, and he wants to know why this happened twice, as Chilliwack already has challenges with its shelters.

“Are hospitals regularly discharging patients into homeless shelters? If so, what can be done to change this practice?” Popove demanded. “Secondly, I would like to know why vulnerable people are being sent to Chilliwack homeless shelters from another community.

“How is it possible that a 76-year-old woman with multiple significant health concerns could have been discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital and sent via taxi to a homeless shelter in Chilliwack over 70 km away from her home, friends and family?”

Part of the problem is that rumours on the street abound about homeless people in Chilliwack being shipped or bused or taxied to Chilliwack from other areas, which has fostered feelings of resentment and frustration from the public.

“Chilliwack already has a very high population of homeless people per capita and we have been working hard to advocate for shelter and housing and, in many cases, have provided financial support,” Popove said in his letter.

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“Our residents know their tax dollars are going to support significant housing first projects in our community and feel this investment should not be used to make Chilliwack a destination for homeless people from throughout the region.”

Mayor Popove called the case of a senior being sent here from Surrey Memorial, “a sad and terrible situation” and is asking for answers.

The first case was a 76-year-old woman with mobility and severe incontinence who was sent via taxi to the Chilliwack Salvation Army on Feb. 2, arriving with a walker and unable to attend to her own hygiene. Salvation Army officials were unable to accommodate the patient. On Feb. 11, she was moved to a temporary shelter, the Portal, where stairs are not an issue, but dealing with constant fecal matter has raised serious concerns for both staff and shelter clients.

“Unfortunately, this individual became increasingly frustrated over her health issues and became belligerent with staff and threatened to kill them.”

She left on her own, returning to the Salvation Army.

Then on Feb. 22, the Salvation Army received a phone call regarding a second patient who was being discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital and needed a bed. This individual was in a wheelchair, had open wounds on his feet and needed to be in a hospital bed.

“This information was not disclosed by the social worker and shelter staff realized they would be unable to provide the level of care this individual requires,” the letter from the Chilliwack mayor continued.

“Based on these two instances, I have several serious concerns that I would like you to address.”

See www.theprogress.com for more on this story as it becomes available.

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@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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