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Forteau family looking for answers after man was flown from Corner Brook hospital alone

From left, Leah Ireland pictured with her son Roger Ireland and brother Balfour Hancock. The Irelands are questioning why Hancock was left to fly out of Corner Brook alone on Dec 27.
From left, Leah Ireland pictured with her son Roger Ireland and brother Balfour Hancock. The Irelands are questioning why Hancock was left to fly out of Corner Brook alone on Dec 27. - Contributed

Balfour Hancock had suffered three strokes; his sister Leah Ireland acts as his caregiver

FORTEAU/CORNER BROOK, N.L.

A family from Forteau, Labrador is questioning the process that led to a relative with an intellectual disability flying from Corner Brook to St. Anthony on his own.

On Dec. 5, 82-year-old Balfour Hancock of Forteau was medevaced from Forteau to St. Anthony after suffering two strokes.

He suffered a third stroke when they landed.

Hancock was accompanied by his sister, 80-year-old Leah Ireland. She acts as his caregiver.

One week later, after the diagnosis was made, he was sent to Corner Brook.

Ireland remained with him the entire time.

She told The Northern Pen there had been preparations a couple days in advance to send him back to St. Anthony. She was prepared to go with him.

However, when the time came for Hancock to be flown out, she was not notified. Hancock, who had lost his sight and speech after suffering the strokes, was left without a family member to travel with him.

When Ireland returned to his hospital room in Corner Brook later that day, she found the room tidied up, the bed made up and empty.

She didn’t know where he was; her first thought was that he had died.

She went to the front desk and learned that an earlier shift had made arrangements to fly Hancock out.

“(The nurse) couldn’t give me any more explanation than that,” she said.

According to Ireland, the hospital had her contact information, so she felt there was no reason they could not let her know her brother was leaving.

“I don’t think it should have ever happened,” she said. “They had both my numbers, I made sure they had that at the front desk. And they never made a phone call.”

She then arranged to fly from Deer Lake to St. Anthony herself to be with her brother again.

In the meantime, she had a friend visit Hancock in St. Anthony to let him know she was still in Corner Brook.

“He didn’t know what happened to me,” she said.

Two days later she was flown out and the two siblings were reunited.

The Northern Pen reached out to Western Health, the health authority for Corner Brook, for comment.

It released a statement to The Northern Pen on Jan. 9 stating it is unable to publicly comment on specific details of any patient care due to privacy legislation.

The health authority added that it welcomed the opportunity to follow-up with any family member who has concerns with their loved one’s care.

“We are currently in communication with his family to address their concerns,” the Western Health email concluded.

Ireland’s son, Roger Ireland, has also contacted federal and provincial representatives, requesting they look into the matter.

Meanwhile, Ireland and Hancock have since returned home. They both live at the retirement home in Forteau.

The good news is that Ireland says her brother’s condition has improved markedly, regaining his ability to see and speak. He is mobile with the assistance of a walker and receives home care at the facility.

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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