A homeless man from Surrey being discharged from Langley Memorial Hospital was put into a taxi and sent to Hope’s emergency shelter after front-line workers told the hospital’s social worker twice that they didn’t have room for the man.
“We don’t take in people from other communities as policy, we have enough people of our own to take care of,” said Gerry Dyble, executive director of the Hope and Area Transition Society (HATS), which opened the emergency shelter in October of last year.
“A patient must be medically stable before being discharged from the hospital,” explained Tasleem Juma, senior consultant of public affairs for Fraser Health. And once discharged, every effort is made to send them back to their home community. In this case, Surrey, “but there was nothing available for them at the time.
“Our social workers do everything they can to support a discharged patient’s transition home. In cases where the individual does not have a home to return to, our staff work with them to find a suitable alternative and support them in their transition once they agree to it … (but) this has been a challenge across our region as we continue to care for our homeless population.”
But Dyble says neither the patient nor the shelter had agreed to the transfer, which occurred near the end of January.
“They called and we said no, we don’t have room. Usually the conversation ends there, but they called back again and we said no again. Then the taxi arrived with him in it.
“When he arrived, staff had to call paramedics, he couldn’t even stand up. We’re not an acute care centre.”
Dyble says the man was sent to the Fraser Canyon Hospital’s emergency room, however, as he was already medically stable there was nothing to be done for him, and he was again discharged back to the shelter.
“We did (eventually) support (his) transfer back to Surrey and into a local spot,” said Juma.
“He didn’t even know where he was (when he first arrived, but) he was very happy (to be home) was my understanding,” said Dyble.
And although it was a one-time event, Dyble says local hospital administrators have brought the issue to the attention of those in charge.
“They’ve been told, in no circumstances (are they) to repeat this policy, and (to) make sure all the staff has been notified at Fraser Health that (Hope) will not accept released (homeless) patients from (other) hospitals,” said mayor Peter Robb at the March 11 council meeting.
However, now that the weather’s warming up, Dyble says the public may notice “more homeless people out in the community, in tents at the river,” or in other spots in town, and HATS’ homeless outreach team is available to bridge connections and help those in need connect with the services that would be of most use by calling 604-869-1880.
HATS also has an up and coming volunteer training session or those who want to learn how to help Hope’s homeless at the ground level.
For more information about HATS, or their upcoming session, please email info@HopeTransition.org.