PETER CONRADI/Bullet News
Niagara Health System officials are confident they can assist to bring a local man back home after he underwent emergency back surgery in Buffalo last week.
Niagara Falls resident Alain Macai, who was injured in a skiing accident a little more than a week ago, has been trying to return to the region since Friday when it was determined he was well enough to travel. But his wife Linda says the family was told there aren’t any beds at local hospitals. So Alain has been forced to wait at Erie County Medical Center, racking up bills while the meter runs on his insurance coverage.
“A million dollars of coverage sounds like a lot but it doesn’t last long,” says Linda. “We have no complaints about the care. The insurance company has been great. But we need to get (Alain) home. That’s where the snag has been. I’m sure the insurance company wants to get him back so that OHIP will start looking after things. But we keep hearing there is no place for him to go. There is something wrong within our own health-care system here.”
However, the Niagara Health System says it didn’t hear of the case until Monday morning. Spokesman Brady Wood says the NHS was only just learning of the details surrounding the Macais’ plight.
“This is normally the kind of thing I would hear about,” Wood says. “We really don’t know who (the insurance company) was talking to.”
A week ago on Feb 10 Alain, 48, an avid runner who completed his first full marathon in 2011, was skiing with some friends at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville N.Y. when he took a nasty fall. He was initially taken to a nearby hospital in Springville, where it was determined that his injuries were serious. He had suffered a cracked iliac bone in his pelvic girdle and a fracture of a lower vertebrae. He was transported to ECMC for surgery the following day.
All went well and on Friday it was decided he was well enough to travel home. But to where? His condition requires continued care in hospital.
“I hadn’t really considered this would be an issue,” says Linda. “He couldn’t move while he was recovering from the operation, but now he can. He still needs to be in hospital but he needs to be home. We have to start the rehabilitation, and that needs to be done from a hospital at home. But there is nowhere to go.”
Linda says the ECMC and the insurance company are working with a third-party “bed provider” to find him a place in Ontario, but so far without luck.
“They say he needs a special bed because of his limitations right now, and that is the problem – they don’t have any available in Niagara.
“I personally went to my own family doctor’s office on Friday to see if anything could be done, only to find out that he does not have hospital privileges and cannot admit to our hospitals. Never having to deal with such a type of emergency before I had no idea.”
Linda says she phoned Niagara Falls Coun. Wayne Gates to see if he had any ideas.
Gates says he got in contact with the NHS Monday.
“I’m just trying to do what I can to get the guy back home. We all know what they bills are like in the States. It didn’t seem to make much sense to me that they were being told there was nowhere for him to go.”
The same is true for the NHS.
Wood says he contacted the family and the insurance company on Monday. He says NHS vice president patient services and Greater Niagara General Hospital site chief Derek McNally is also involved.
“The insurance company told me it is their procedure to contact all the hospitals (in Niagara),” Wood says. “We don’t know if they did, or if we did anything that needs to be looked it.”
Wood acknowledges it is possible someone at the NHS was informed and the information wasn’t moved up the chain of command. He says the situation will be examined when everyone returns to work today.
He is confident Macai will be at GNGH this week, perhaps as early as today.
“Unless there is something about this case that we don’t know, we’re sure we can do this as quickly as possible.”
In the meantime, Linda says her husband is making good progress. He took a few steps on his own Monday.