An emergency room in Lower Sackville, N.S. turned away a cancer patient with a “pink slip” on Friday night, angering his family and sparking a wider conversation about healthcare problems in Atlantic Canada.
Melisa Simpson, herself recovering from knee surgery, noticed her father’s foot swelling Friday evening and decided to take him to the ER, fearing a blood clot.
After waiting two hours and seeing a doctor “for about five minutes,” she says there were no technicians on duty to run tests and they were told to come back in the morning if her father felt worse.
Simpson and her father did go home, with a note printed on pink paper that told him that his condition was not considered “immediately life-threatening” and the ER would not put him in line for treatment because it was “over-capacity” and closing at midnight.
“I thought it was appalling that someone as sick as my dad would be turned away,” she says.
Simpson’s story resonated with many, after her social media post of the “pink slip” went viral, being shared hundreds of times and prompting many people to comment with their own horror stories of medical care in Atlantic Canada.
Jason Maclean of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), says the practice of “pink slips” for patients whose cases are not deemed urgent enough proves that healthcare workers are overwhelmed, and patients are not getting the care they need.
“It’s making people second -guess themselves,” he says, “should I go there [the ER]? Will I get sent away?”
The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) says that “pink slips” have been standard practice for three years, in an effort to “safely manage patient volumes” and “ensure the most acute patients have the opportunity to receive a physician assessment.”
Simpson says that something needs to change.
“There’s not enough nurses, there’s not enough doctors,” she says.