Injured man blames lack of Ontario hospital beds for six-day wait in Costa Rica
David and Kristen Ronald are shown in this image from Facebook.
Published Thursday, February 22, 2018 1:35PM EST
An Ontario man who was seriously injured in Costa Rica is being airlifted home with his wife after six days of uncertainty in the tropical country, where he claims he was stranded waiting for his insurer to find an open hospital bed in Canada.
David Ronald, 58, underwent two surgeries in Costa Rica after a catastrophic fall left him with a shattered pelvis, broken arm and broken back on Feb. 15. His wife, Kristen, tried to arrange to have him flown home for the second of those surgeries, but the two were told they couldn’t come back to Ontario until a hospital bed opened up. The Ronalds say their insurer told them no beds were available.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who represents the Ronalds’ home riding in Hamilton, issued a news release Wednesday pushing for a solution to the problem, and condemning the governing Liberals for a lack of hospital beds in the province. She also criticized Health Minister Eric Hoskins during question period at Queen’s Park on Thursday, saying it’s “ridiculous” that she should have to “do his job for him.”
Hoskins disputed the lack of beds, saying that his office counted 10 available ICU beds in Hamilton and 140 across the province over the weekend. “We cannot verify whether the insurer contacted all hospitals across the region,” Hoskins said during question period. He added: “The hospital, the insurance company and all of us can do better in co-ordinating that care.
“We are now working as hard as humanly possible to ensure that the family is able to avail themselves of our health services.”
The health minister also accused Horwath of putting “politics over patients” in the case, by going public with their plight instead of contacting his office first. Hoskins said he first learned about the Ronalds’ situation when a reporter contacted him for comment on the NDP news release.
“My ministry was not contacted with regards to this case, and my office was not contacted in regard to this case,” he said.
Horwath said she was doing her job as an MPP in answering a “desperate call” from one of her constituents.
She said the Ronalds were on their way home on Thursday.
Stuck in Costa Rica
The Ronalds say they were in frequent contact with their insurer and CritiCall Ontario, a government agency that responds to urgent health issues, during their time in Costa Rica. They were told they couldn’t come home until a bed was found for David in Ontario, but no timeline was given as to when that might happen.
“It’s very stressful,” Kristen Ronald told CTVNews.ca by phone from the hospital in San Jose, Costa Rica on Wednesday. The Ronalds were still waiting for a bed at the time, although Kristen had already located a rehab facility for David back in Ontario. All she needed was for him to be examined at an Ontario hospital so he could be properly transferred.
“His surgeries are done, they’ve repaired him, he’s out of the ICU and he’s in a private room now,” she said Wednesday.
“Who would think that you would have something so horrible happen to you in a foreign country, and then you can’t get home to your own country because there are no beds?”
David Ronald was injured at approximately 2 a.m. on Feb. 15, while camping on a hike in the Costa Rican jungle. The injury occurred when he tried to walk around the camp site after waking up in the middle of the night.
“It was dark out and he went to get up out of bed and slipped and fell 12 feet to the ground,” Kristen Ronald said.
A paramedic friend on the trip helped arrange a backboard for David so he could be loaded into a pickup truck and taken to a nearby hospital. From there he was airlifted to San Jose for the first surgery to fix his hip.
A second surgery was completed two days later, on Feb. 17, after the couple tried unsuccessfully to get back to Ontario for the operation.
Overcrowding is an issue in many Ontario hospitals -- an issue the NDP has been pressing ahead of a provincial election this summer.
The province announced $100 million in additional spending last October to add 1,200 new hospital beds across Ontario.