The Toronto family says his 91-year-old father was placed in a COVID-19 room – despite a negative test. He died three days later


Hank Bordan was a stubborn, energetic, talkative 91-year-old man. He spent his last days alone in the COVID-19 ward at St. Michael’s Hospital.

His daughter says he does not have COVID-19.

Bordan, writer, enthusiastic conversationalist and devoted member of the Jewish community, died on May 1. He was a journalist for the Star from 1973 to 1989.

Linda Hargreaves, who teaches English at York University, wrote to the St. Michael’s Complaints Department asking why her father died in COVID-19 service after he was admitted for C infection . difficult. A few hours before his death, Hargreaves was informed that being in this service prevented his family from coming to say goodbye.

Hargreaves still had no answers on Tuesday.

“Dad was really sick. I knew it, “she told the Star. “But it would have been nice to at least hold his hand at the end. “

She was unable to speak to her father during the entire time he spent in St. Michael’s.

Hargreaves was standing in the carpet-covered basement of his Toronto home at 2 p.m. Friday, looking out of a small window when a doctor from St. Michael’s called him.

Hargreaves said the doctor told him three things: his father had a negative coronavirus test, he was dying – and no, the family couldn’t see him because he was on COVID-19 .

“I was in shock,” she said.

Until then, she had not been told that he was on a COVID-19 service, although she had spoken to hospital staff on several occasions since her father was admitted to St. Michael’s three days before.

Hargreaves said the doctor assured him that staff would try to get his father out of COVID-19 so that he could see him before he died. St. Michael’s has a no-visit policy due to the pandemic, but exceptions could be made for end-of-life visits, according to the Unity Health Toronto website.

Three hours later, Hargreaves’ phone rang again.

Her father was dead. Her heart had failed.

“I was screaming” no “,” she said. “I was very upset. I was like, “what do you mean, he died? “”

A spokesperson for St. Michael’s operator Unity Health confirmed in an email that Bordan was a patient but would not respond to questions from the Star about his case, saying that the hospital did not publicly discuss patient information .

The spokesperson said that in general, “only patients who are positive or under investigation for COVID are admitted to COVID services” in St. Michael’s.

Ontario’s public health guidelines confirm that patients who have or are suspected of having COVID-19 should be kept away from other patients.

Yet a spokesperson for Unity Health Toronto also called the Hargreaves account “troubling” and “does not reflect the care or values ​​for which St. Michael’s Hospital is known.”

The email continued: “We have reached out to Mr. Bordan’s daughter so that we can express our condolences, better understand the experience of his family and learn from this sad situation.”

Hargreaves, the eldest of three, had been caring for her father for seven months. He fractured three ribs during a fall in October – after insisting on taking the subway to Ryerson University, where he was taking a course at the Life Institute – and has been recovering for two months at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare , a center specializing in rehabilitation and physiotherapy.

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the headlines in Canada in March, Hargreaves kept an eye on him. She knew that COVID-19 could easily be fatal for someone his age.

Hargreaves said his father had already been tested for COVID-19 twice while he was at Bridgepoint and both tests were negative.

Then, on April 29, Bridgepoint staff called Hargreaves and said that he had sent Bordan to St. Michael’s because he was fighting for C. difficile, a bacterial infection that can be fatal for the elderly. He was getting dehydrated.

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Hargreaves said that after her father started needing 24-hour care after his fall, she closely monitored the care he received. Like many seniors, he was not always able to defend himself, she said.

It was always his fear that he would not receive the best care possible. However, due to the pandemic, hospitals were limiting visitors and Hargreaves could not visit her father every day as she wished. So she called the St. Michael’s daily newspaper for updates.

Each time, she implored the nurses to check on her father. She said two different nurses told her they couldn’t because they would have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) every time they entered her room – and they weren’t enough.

In a statement to the Star, Unity Health Toronto said the agency had “appropriate levels of PPE for our staff.”

Hargreaves assumed that nurses were wearing PPE because C. difficile is very contagious. At this point, she was unaware that her father had been placed on a COVID-19 service.

Hargreaves said she had started asking at least to give her father a phone so she could talk to him. His request was never granted – again, the lack of PPE was the reason, he was told. However, the nurses confirmed that he was lucid and speaking, she said. In fact, the day before he died, he was complaining loudly in his room and taking out his oxygen tubes, they told him.

“What bothers me most last week is that no one is accountable to anyone,” she said. “They could have let my father cry out for help in a room for two or three days, and no one would have known.”

At the time, Hargreaves was optimistic that his father would be okay – of course, he was 91 years old and struggling with C. difficile, but he had foiled the odds before. Three years ago, her heart stopped and the doctors were able to start over. In the past few months, he has contracted pneumonia twice and has recovered on both occasions.

“It was a badass,” said Hargreaves.

And he had always been independent – he had Hargreaves on speed dial and called him several times a day, sometimes reminding him to stay on top of his charity work, sometimes talking about his favorite movie, “Father Goose”.

The Monday before his death, he spoke with Hargreaves on the phone for half an hour, she said.

Four days later, he was dead.

Hargreaves said he couldn’t see his father before he died – and was told that the nurses couldn’t watch him, sometimes more than four hours at a time – caused heartbreaking feelings of anguish and frustration that ‘she does not wish anyone.

“We don’t know if he took care. But I feel like he didn’t have one, “she said, sobbing.

“I don’t want this to happen to someone else. “

Wanyee Li


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