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Morell woman says support inadequate following cancer treatment

Belinda Murphy prior to her small cell lung cancer diagnosis and treatments, which have deteriorated her health over the last year. Murphy, a Morell resident, is calling on the province to do more to support health-care professionals.
Belinda Murphy prior to her small cell lung cancer diagnosis and treatments, which have deteriorated her health over the last year. Murphy, a Morell resident, is calling on the province to do more to support health-care professionals. - Contributed

MORELL, P.E.I. - A Morell woman with incurable lung cancer says mistakes by health-care providers have made her situation worse.

“Our health-care system sucks,” said Belinda Murphy. “Sometimes the patient suffers needlessly, and I think the fault and the onus belongs to our politicians.”

When Murphy was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in January, she was told by doctors she had months to live.

“They did tell me I might not make it to June and here we are in August,” Murphy told The Guardian.

She said community support and the thought of seeing her youngest son graduate in June kept her going through those long winter months.

“I either give in or I fight for my life,” she said. “I wanted to see (my son) Nathan walk across that stage and get his diploma. That is all I wanted. My kids need me.”

Since her diagnosis, Murphy said she has undergone risky radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

But she remains optimistic that the cancer may not come back.

“They say I won’t work again, I say I will. My goal is October.”

However, Murphy is not as positive about some experiences she had during her treatments that caused extra journeys from Morell to Charlottetown.

“Mistakes happen. I can forgive,” she said. ”Our health-care professionals are extremely overworked. There is not near enough of them here.”

Following her radiation treatments, Murphy wasn’t feeling well. She was told to look out for a condition called thrush which causes sores in the mouth. While at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, her doctor noticed her history of cold sores. So, they swabbed for both.

“They used the wrong swab for the cold sores.”

The hospital reached out the next day to inform Murphy she would have to come back.

“I was very irate because I just left Charlottetown,” Murphy said.

Another time, a doctor wanted a sample of mucus but she was unable provide it on demand. The next day, she travelled back to Charlottetown to bring a sample to the hospital.

However, she said a nurse had accidentally placed a wrong sticker label for another patient on the sample.

Murphy wasn’t informed until she got home — and found out she would once again have to travel from Morell to Charlottetown.

“This is a full week after I was in there to see them. I was sick at that stage.”

Once more, Murphy was the subject of a paperwork error when she filed for disability support payments. Her doctor filled out documents supporting her claim, which she said were accidentally sent back to her instead of filed with the proper department.

Murphy stressed she does not blame staff and feels government could do more to support health-care professionals.

“When you are in this situation, I see them running in circles. And mistakes like this don’t happen if we have more people in place,” she said. “These mistakes shouldn’t happen.”

When reached for a comment, Health P.E.I. responded with an email to The Guardian stating staff at the QEH are committed to ensuring patients receive the best care possible.

“While we cannot speak to the specific event in question, we can confirm that Health P.E.I. does have a provincial client identification policy that applies to all health-care facilities, programs and services,” wrote Amanda Hamel, senior communications officer with Health P.E.I. “This policy outlines the important steps to be taken to correctly identify an individual before providing care and/or services.”

Hamel said if an event occurs involving a labeling error, the situation is investigated to see where the error occurred and what steps can be taken to prevent a similar situation in the future. Health P.E.I. also re-educates staff on client identification policy periodically, she said.

A survey recently released by MQO research showed 58 per cent of Islanders were satisfied with the province’s health-care system.
Kings County, where Murphy lives, had the lowest level of satisfaction.

“It is mind boggling you are fighting for your life and you worry you are falling through the cracks,” said Murphy. “I mean I am giving it my all, but are they?”


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