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B.C. senior in serious condition finally flown out for treatment

Medevac delayed after post surgery infection

A northern B.C. senior in need of urgent medical treatment is being transferred today to University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC) in Prince George, the Northern Health Authority has confirmed.

Family confirmed that Sheri Onstein’s medevac plane was landing just before noon on Friday after the 82-year-old former nurse suffering from a post surgery infection had her transport postponed several times.

Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins told Black Press Media on Friday morning that UHNBC has the capacity and the patient transfer is “now occurring.”

READ MORE: ‘No place will take her’: No help for Terrace senior in “life or limb” condition

Family said Onstein underwent an operation on her foot in Prince George after a Sept. 2 car accident and was sent back to Mills Memorial Hospital Sept. 14 to recover.

But family members said they were told on Sept. 21 that the infection resulted in a “life or limb” situation and there would be a high-priority medevac to Prince George.

Just before midnight the evening of Sept. 21, daughter Rebecca Onstein said the family was told she would no longer be leaving Terrace “even though her condition had only gotten worse.”

She said the family was then told the medevac would happen the next morning but were again let down. Rebecca’s sister, Rachel, having made the more than six-hour drive to Prince George in advance, was left waiting.

Collins said hospitals across B.C. are “experiencing similar things” but the patient transfer process depends on the level of care the patient requires.

“It does (also) depend on the availability of an appropriate bed and a receiving physician.”

She said it happens that patient transport can be delayed “as the direct result” of clinical factors like the level of care needed, availability of an appropriate bed, the patient’s condition and whether it could be impacted by a transfer, adding that patients continue to receive care throughout.

“Patient transfer status is determined by physicians, based on the patient’s clinical presentation and condition,” Collins said, adding that Northern Health takes patient and family concerns about care seriously.

Sheri’s son-in-law Bob Costain said Friday that the family is feeling much better knowing Sheri is on her way to Prince George but it’s just the beginning of a process that will take months.

“The plane has landed and they’re just making arraignments to get her on the flight right now. She’s going to have a long haul ahead. It’s scary but she’s pretty tough so hopefully she does well.

“But that doesn’t solve the bigger problem that there are several other patients also waiting here right now. There’s still a backlog of patients to get out. But we’re glad that Sheri’s on the flight right now, absolutely.

“We need to improve this process. There’s patients who are not getting proper care — there’s patients who are dying because they are not getting proper care right now.”

Sheri’s granddaughter flew with her on the plane to Prince George and Rachel, who has been waiting there since making the drive, was able to greet her when she arrived.


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