A Hay River senior citizen says she was unable to access home care after undergoing major surgery, even though her doctor had requested it.
About five days after having a complete hysterectomy at the Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife as a treatment for uterus cancer, Lois Ray McInnis said she had to fend for herself at home in Hay River.
Virtually immobile after her surgery on June 14, McInnis believes home care providers did not do enough to reach her after she returned home on June 19.
"I never went out for two weeks," she said. "Nobody called and nobody came."
McInnis is 70 years old and lives alone in a one-story building run by the Hay River Housing Authority.
To get into the building, a visitor must dial a resident's apartment number at the entrance, after which the resident must press 'nine' on her phone to open the front door.
McInnis said her condition in the days after her surgery made it exceedingly difficult to for her to get out of bed, and the phone that would open the front door of the building was in her kitchen.
She said she made home care staff aware of her predicament on June 19, and the response she got was, "You're going to have to open the door."
McInnis said her phone did ring the next day, but that she did not answer it.
"If it was home care, they took their leave and they made no attempts to come back," she said.
She has since called the home care program to find out why she did not get treatment during the most difficult stage of her recovery in Hay River.
McInnis said she was told that home care workers went to her building and rang for her several times, but that she never answered.
McInnis disputes the home care program's assertion.
"They just said 'you weren't there,'" she said. "I said, 'Well where would I be?'"
The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation confirmed that all home care workers have codes to get inside the Hay River Housing Authority building in which McInnis lives.
"The issue of access to individual units is between home care workers and residents," said Cara Bryant, a housing corporation spokesperson.
The Hay River Health and Social Services Authority says it cannot speak about specific cases.
The health authority does have a procedure to ensure home care staff can enter a patient's home, CEO Erin Griffiths stated in a July 6 email.
She said home care staff get permission and confirm the details for how to enter a patient's home when they book a visit.
"Traditionally a client may leave their door unlocked for the visit, and/or if the client resides in an apartment building, they will allow entrance by opening the exterior door by pressing a buzzer located in their apartment," wrote Griffiths.
She added that the concerned resident should contact the health authority so they can investigate the matter.
"I can assure you complaints are taken very seriously," wrote Griffiths.
McInnis said no home care worker ever came to the door of her apartment.
She said a few days after returning home she was able to move the kitchen phone by her bed so that she would not have to get up every time it rang.
"It's been over two weeks now and there's no one who's reported here to me," said McInnis on July 5.
During her recovery, McInnis said she had a few visits from friends, but that for the most part, she was on her own.
"I just stuck close to my bed," she said.
"I'd get up to go to the bathroom, I'd get up to grab something quickly from the fridge, and I tried to keep it very simple, keep it short."
Danny Dube is friends with McInnis and has visited her at her apartment a number of times.
He knew that getting up to answer the phone to open the door was an issue for her.
"When she first came from her surgery almost three weeks ago, she could hardly get up, so I didn't spend a lot of time visiting with her," said Dube. "I wanted her to rest, and that was doctor's orders,"
He did go over about a week after she came home to Hay River. By that time she had moved the door phone next to her bed.
"I know she's been frustrated with (home care) so I told her, 'if you want home care you have to make arrangements for them to come,'" he said.
Dube said there could be better communication between home care providers and their patients.
"If home care is going to help all these elderly people... sit down with the patient that you're going to help and explain everything so that we understand what we're getting home care for," he said.
"Maybe (McInnis) wasn't explained that, and maybe that's why she's frustrated."
McInnis is getting better. She is cooking, and cleaning the cages of her pet birds.
Since returning to Hay River from the hospital, McInnis said she had to do all her housework herself.
"But I managed," she said.
After her ordeal, McInnis does not have much confidence in the Hay River health care system.
She wonders why home care workers did not make more of an effort to get to her when she needed them most.
"What if they have a patient that's on his deathbed or something?' She said. "Do they expect him to jump up and press number nine on the phone so that they can come in the front door?"
"They don't need anybody to open the front door, they're home care."