After 100 years in Stonewall, Manitoba senior transferred out of town to make room for COVID-19 patients

Ruth Sampson has known no other home in her 100 years of life than Stonewall, Man. — until this week, when the centenarian was transferred, against her wishes, to a hospital in a community more than two hours away.

She is one of the Manitobans — and perhaps the oldest — forced from hospitals to make room for an expected influx of COVID-19 patients during the province’s fourth wave of cases.

Her family worries their Auntie Ruth may die alone. Time isn’t on their side. 

“Here’s a lady that has lived in this community for 100 years, paid taxes here for 100 years, and basically it’s like getting the punt when you’re 100 — ‘we don’t need you here anymore,'” said David Tyerman, a family member.

Sampson had been living on her own, with minimal home care, at a 55-plus centre in Stonewall, about 30 kilometres north of Winnipeg, until she suffered a fall just before Thanksgiving and was brought to hospital.

She spent 46 days there, before her family was told on Tuesday that her bed had to be made available for a potential COVID-19 patient and Sampson would be sent to Crystal City.

‘She’s a trouper’

She took it all in stride, Tyerman said. 

“She’s a trouper. That’s one thing about her,” he said.

His wife, Linda Tyerman, is Sampson’s niece. She said her aunt’s thoughts are with her family making the long trek to Crystal City, a drive that’s more than 200 kilometres southwest from Stonewall.

“She’s worried about we’re going to be on the road at wintertime, and on the road when it’s dark out. She’s worried about the kids and what they’re thinking,” said Linda, who is her aunt’s primary caregiver. 

The couple say this issue extends far beyond them. Two dozen patients and counting have been transferred away, sometimes hours away from their loved ones.

“It’s not just Ruth,” Linda said.

Shared Health has said the transfers are meant to help ease increased pressure on the health-care system due to the spike of COVID-19 cases.

The provincial health organization acknowledges moving individuals to sites in other health regions can be unsettling and disruptive for both patients and their families.

Family ‘rightfully upset’

During the legislature’s question period on Thursday, Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew cited Sampson’s forced transfer as proof the Progressive Conservative government has failed to prepare the health-care system for the latest wave of the pandemic.

“The family, I think, is rightfully upset because their loved one is not only going to be farther away from visiting, they’re going to be farther away from their primary caregiver,” Kinew said in an interview.

Sampson is scheduled to be placed in a personal care home, although no timeline has been settled.

Progressive Conservative House leader Kelvin Goertzen said the pandemic has exacerbated the need for personal care home beds.

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