Woman with multiple broken ribs has waited 6 days for surgery at Moncton hospital

It happened in a blink of an eye. Linda Cummings, 74, stepped out on the porch of her Hampton home for some fresh air. She slipped and fell on the frosty steps, breaking four ribs and breaking four others.

She was rushed to Saint John Regional Hospital and diagnosed with “sling chest,” a serious injury that destabilizes and floats her chest wall, and was taken to Moncton Hospital for chest surgery.

Six days later, Cummings is still waiting for surgery and an available intensive care bed at the crowded, low-staffed Moncton Hospital, where COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported in four units and 27 patients tested positive for the virus by Friday.

Cummings was given a hydromorphone drop to relieve the pain of her broken ribs while she waits for the surgery.

But their son, Brian Cummings, is becoming more and more alarmed as every day comes and goes without a bed opening for his mother.

“She is in a lot of pain and has great difficulty breathing,” he said in an interview on Friday. “It’s so frustrating to sit here and wait … knowing that there may be no end in sight.”

Cummings, a Miramichi police officer, comes to the hospital every day to be with his mother and every day hopes to hear that her operation can continue.

On Friday morning he asked the assistant surgeon how long he had ever seen a flail-chest patient wait before undergoing an operation.

“He said ‘two days,'” said Cummings. “Well, we’re on the sixth day.”

Cummings said the surgeon also told him “there is a window” in which the surgery should be done. If this window is missed, the ribs will attempt to heal and “connect to the muscle tissue,” leaving the patient with chronic pain.

“And in [the surgeon’s] Words, we’re at that window right now. “

Linda Cummings standing with her granddaughters Morgan and Brooke. Cummings fell and broke or broke eight ribs and needed a chest operation. (Submitted by Brian Cummings)

The hospital is “doing well,” says the minister

Horizon Health Network said Friday that only three of 23 intensive care beds at Moncton Hospital were available by midnight Thursday evening.

Communications advisor Kris McDavid said he didn’t have the current load on the 36-bed COVID unit, but said 27 patients and six employees tested positive for the virus as of late Friday afternoon.

He found that 16 out of 43 intensive care beds in the Saint John Regional Hospital are occupied. However, this hospital is not a good option for Cummings because of the type of surgery it needs.

Earlier Friday, Health Secretary Dorothy Shephard told reporters that the hospital was handling the outbreaks well.

“We have 23 patients and five employees who tested positive for COVID,” Shephard said during a tussle before lawmakers.

“The hospital is doing well right now.”

Shephard noted that the hospital is running “sentinel tests,” which proactively test non-symptomatic individuals across the hospital “to make sure they are trying to catch anything if it has spread”.

“But there is no evidence of that at the moment,” said Shephard.

In a tussle Friday, Health Secretary Dorothy Shephard told reporters that Moncton Hospital is “doing fine” on four units amid COVID outbreaks. (Ed Hunter / CBC)

Cummings himself stressed that he did not blame the hospital’s handling of the outbreaks or the hospital staff, noting that they were all “top notch” without exception.

But he has a message for those who have chosen to stay unvaccinated.

“If an intensive care bed is being occupied by someone who is in intensive care because they have COVID and refuses to get vaccinated, it could be a bed my mother could have been in,” said Cummings .

“The people in this province who have chosen not to get vaccinated and who are anti-Vaxxers, I don’t know how bluntly I can say that. … They are fools and they put a heavy tax on our health system. “

Cummings said he hopes to hear by tonight or Saturday that his mother is getting the surgery she needs.

But he said he was concerned about the other patients in New Brunswick who are in the same situation and waiting for an available ICU bed to have surgery.

He urges Prime Minister Blaine Higgs and public health officials to do something about the outbreaks that are plaguing hospitals.

“Get harsher penalties, get more guidelines and more restrictions and more breakers,” he said.

“Something has to be done. That is not acceptable.”

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