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Hamilton family seeks answers after dementia patient found outside in hospital gown

Posted: October 11, 2023

(October 10, 2023)

By: Hadi Azad, CHCH News

A Hamilton woman is angry after she says her father, who has dementia, was discharged from St. Joseph’s Hospital last Thursday evening, and was later found outside his supportive residence in just a hospital gown.

Leslie Lang-Clementi wants people to know what happened to her 72-year-old father Brian, who was left out on the cold last week, could happen to their family.

Brian lives with frontotemporal dementia and has been living at First Place Supportive Housing on King Street East in Hamilton since July.

She says last Thursday, First Place decided her father needed to go to the hospital but later that evening, Leslie says she got a call from an emergency room doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital, saying her father seemed fine.

She asked if he could stay at the hospital until 8 a.m. the following day because she said First Place told her they can’t take anyone in outside of business hours.

The next morning, Leslie says she got a call from First Place. She says what they said, “shocked her.”

“They said, ‘we didn’t want to bug you last night, he’s fine, he’s safe, but we need to tell you what happened.’ I was like, ‘what happened?” said Leslie.

She was told her father was found outside the building after 11 p.m. wandering around in the rain, wearing only a hospital gown.

“Somebody coming off shift, was outside leaving to go home for the day, saw him, recognized him, and brought him back up to the unit, thank heaven,” said Leslie.

Leslie says she was not told that her father had been discharged from the hospital and she has no idea how he got from the hospital to First Place.

“There’s no way he would have discharged himself, because he has dementia, and two, he wouldn’t even have known to go there,” said Leslie. “I tried to wrap my head around the thought process and logic that gets you to that this is an ok safe thing to do.”

Brit Hancock from the Ontario Health Coalition says this incident could speak to the state of the healthcare system as a whole in Ontario.

“There have to be enough resources so that compassionate care can be provided, I think it just shows how stretched we are for resources, both human and financial resources, and that people need to know that Ontario funds its hospitals at the lowest rate in Canada,” said Hancock.

Leslie says she reached out to St. Joseph’s Hospital to find answers and they told her they are investigating the incident and ensured her that it would never happen again.

But Leslie remains frustrated.

“At what point does staff shortages, burnout, lack of help, lack of staffing, etc. etc., at what point does that stop becoming a reason and becomes an excuse,” said Leslie.

CHCH News reached out to First Place but they say because of patient privacy they won’t comment. St. Joseph’s Hospital says they are reviewing the matter internally, but also won’t comment further due to patient privacy.