A bill of $806.69 from Fraser Health for his wife’s most recent five-day stay at Peace Arch Hospital was just about the last straw for one Peninsula resident – particularly since that stay included anaphylactic shock as a result of accidental exposure to latex gloves.
Ron Eves said the bill, for “preferred accommodation, cardiology, laboratory and blood work,” arrived Tuesday morning.
He said it “added insult to injury” for his wife, Brenda Kropp, who has a severe latex allergy and required numerous injections of Epinephrine after she went into shock following the exposure, which caused her airways to close.
“For the entire day I watched as she shook from the effects,” Eves said.
Kropp, who went into the hospital Jan. 13 for ileostomy surgery, said she had made it clear at the pre-admission interview that she was very concerned about latex exposure, and had been assured the hospital was “latex-free.”
Fraser Health spokesperson Joan Marshall, who acknowledged the latex exposure was the result of a nurse’s error for which Fraser Health has apologized, said the bill was cancelled the same day.
“Sometimes bills are sent out automatically,” she said.
But Eves said that while he is grateful the bill was cancelled so quickly, it does little to calm his concerns about communication at the hospital triggered by the initial incident.
He said he does not want to reflect negatively on “hard-working, caring and compassionate nursing staff on the second floor,” or doctors who work “under the poor conditions that Fraser Health has provided them with at Peace Arch Hospital.”
“Where I see the need for efficiencies is on the management side,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing for an administration to say we need more money. We’ve spread things as thin as we can, considering the growth in the community.”
Kropp, too, said she did not intend to condemn staff out of hand. But the incident, which followed surgery to repair a peristomal hernia, was traumatic, she said.
“It was the most horrible thing I have ever been through,” Kropp said, noting she has had five or six operations related to her ileostomy in the last 10 years.
Kropp said the latex exposure occurred early Jan. 14 as she was recuperating from surgery.
“I wasn’t completely out and I remember telling them (nurses) I had to go pee,” she said. “They found it odd that I hadn’t been fitted with a catheter.”
A nurse went to get a kit to fit a catheter, and Kropp said she had some concern because she normally brings her own latex-free kit with her.
“But they had assured me that the hospital was latex-free,” she said, noting she also bore a wristband that indicated her allergy.
When she saw the gloves the nurse was using, she began to panic.
“I said, ‘what kind of gloves are they?’ She told me they were latex. Then we discovered the catheter they had in me was latex, too.”
Kropp estimates she had at least four shots of Epinephrine to counteract the shock, on the direct orders of her surgeon.
“I was fortunate that my surgeon was coming to do his rounds,” she said.
Following the incident, she was placed in a private room, with signs that clearly indicated ‘no latex’ both inside and outside the room,” Eves said. She stayed there until she was released from hospital Jan. 17.
But Eves said he still has not recovered from the sight of “my partner lying there shaking for hours.”
“Fraser Health has apologized to the patient and her family,” Marshall said, noting the nurse is “extremely upset by her error.”
“We’re terribly sorry this mistake has occurred, and grateful, obviously that the patient has recovered,” she added.
“This is something we’re learning from. Fraser Health is committed to reviewing this incident and we will be using (it) as a study and sharing the experience with staff at a meeting. We’re optimistic this review will help reduce the chances of this happening again.”
But Kropp and Eves said Fraser Health’s apologies have not restored their confidence in the system.
“They don’t have a latex-free environment, as they told me,” Kropp said.
“Somewhere along the way they bought this latex kit and didn’t check it.”
Particularly galling, said Kropp, is the fact that she had done due diligence in informing the hospital of her allergy.
“I told them from the get-go that I would need a private room. They even argued about that, but I told them it was covered by the Medical Services Plan. I said, ‘you’re going to get paid for this.’
“If I were someone’s child with a peanut allergy, would I be treated any differently?”