‘Eroded his brain’: Local man says long Southlake stay harmed father

Family describes difficult journey getting proper treatment in health-care system

Miku Linkruus has battled for months to get the best care he could for his father, Koit Linkruus.

After the 82-year-old broke his femur last August, he was taken to Southlake Regional Health Centre for treatment.

While Linkruus’ father was able to get that addressed, what followed was a lengthy saga that saw his father’s health deteriorate. Linkruus said his father was shuffled between departments and unable to get the rehabilitation he needed.

“That atmosphere just completely kind of eroded his brain,” Linkruus said, adding he was shocked by the state of the hospital. “They’re just completely overworked.”

He said after his father’s initial treatment, heart trouble prompted Southlake to take him to the cardiology unit. At first, it looked like surgery would be needed, but Linkruus said his father’s heart righted itself to make that unnecessary.

But things got worse at that point. Linkruus said his father needed to start rehabilitation, but that didn’t happen as he got shuffled between doctors and temporarily moved to the cancer ward with no other bed available for him. 

The result was about five weeks in hospital, where Linkruus said his dad was effectively left in bed and deteriorated.

“It was very heartbreaking,” he said.

It took patient advocacy on their part to eventually get him into the restorative care unit that the family knew he needed, Linkruus recounted.

The hospital has faced ongoing challenges due to physical space constraints, prompting it to seek a new site to better meet the demands of a growing population.

It has become one of the most overcrowded hospitals in the province, and while it keeps a high accreditation and the ability to see patients when they are first admitted to an emergency room, patients can face long waits to get admitted to the hospital when needed.

Asked about the family’s situation, the hospital said it could not comment on individual cases due to patient privacy and referred to overcrowding and lack of any significant acute care capital investment in 20 years.

“That’s why we have expanded our off-site restorative care units, which have served more than 2,300 patients since opening in 2017,” the hospital said. “Southlake remains focused on developing a new strategy to meet our current and future patients’ needs for the next 100 years of care in our communities.”

By the time his father began rehabilitative care, Linkruus said he had become much less mobile.

Over the course of his injury and time in hospital, Linkruus said the senior had gone from being able to move around regularly to being unable to stand without assistance and also losing some cognitive ability, though he added it is hard to know exactly how much the hospital stay contributed to that cognitive decline.

After pushing to get his father to the restorative care unit, Linkruus said he finally started getting some of the rehab needed. But he said with his father’s declined cognitive ability, the treatments did not seem to be working or well suited for him.

“There’s absolutely no program (there) that sort of is for more elderly people that need more assistance,” he said.

Ultimately, the family decided to take him to a private seniors home in Aurora in December. There, they said he had some help for mobility challenges, and they were able to visit and care for him regularly to improve his cognitive and movement abilities.

“By March, we were able to get my dad back to the point where he could stand up … and he could actually get into my car,” he said. “I could bring him home for the weekend.”

But their father still was not able to live independently, and being in a private home was not cheap. Although he said his parents were upper middle class, it was still too costly for them, and not an option many families would necessarily have access to.

“It was just becoming a very big financial strain on my mom,” he said.

They applied to have him taken to a public long-term care home in January and were finally able to get him into one in Barrie at the end of May.

However, the experience has left Linkruus upset by the state of the health-care system.

“He just fell through the gaps.”

Linkruus said he believes that if his father had got the care he needed sooner, he might have been able to remain at home for a couple of more years before needing a long-term care home.

“He’s going to be in long-term care. He’s never going to be able to come home,” Linkruus said. “It’s a shame.”


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