WARNING: Some of the details in this story are disturbing, discretion is advised

A Prince Rupert, B.C., family says the overnight closure of their hospital’s emergency ward turned into another health-care nightmare.

Tish Losier said her husband Joe Budnisky began having epileptic seizures early Monday morning while the Prince Rupert ER was closed due to staffing shortages.

“An ambulance got here in a reasonable amount of time,” Losier said.

“Firstly, they told us that the ER was closed and they would likely have to transport us to Terrace. I agreed. I mean, we needed medical care for him as soon as possible. If that’s the place that’s open, that’s where we needed to go.”


Click to play video: 'Prince Rupert woman describes desparate 911 call following husband’s seizure'


Prince Rupert woman describes desparate 911 call following husband’s seizure


Terrace’s hospital is 90 minutes away.

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However, the paramedics then told Losier it would be better to wait those 90 minutes until the Prince Rupert ER would open.

They waited it out with the paramedics but Losier said when they went to the ER once it opened, the situation got even worse.

“Well, to be honest, they didn’t give him any of the medicine that they usually give him,” she said.

“It was really really hectic in there. They opened the doors, there was people immediately waiting for services as well as our ambulance waiting outside.”

Losier said Budnisky was given some pain medication and had X-rays taken due to the pain in his ribs.

They were then released.


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“Protocol with him is usually they make sure he’s stable,” she said. “They’ll give him a good dose of his medication, and usually hold him for at least 24 hours until they know that he’s stable before they let us go home. In this case, they just let us go. It was too busy, I guess.”

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Losier said she asked a nurse why they were being discharged so quickly and was told they didn’t have the beds and they didn’t have the staff.


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However, her husband had a second seizure just hours later.

“That was the really terrifying part,” Losier said.

“We were walking from the car to my home. He had another seizure in the driveway while he was standing and walking. He fell down and smacked his head.”

Budnisky had a large laceration on his head, but when she called 911 that time, the dispatch operator told her there were no ambulances available.

“I asked for fire rescue or RCMP, somebody to help me with this man,” she said. “And they said they didn’t know what our service agreements were here at town and nobody came.”

Losier said she was holding her husband’s head together, screaming for help.

“It was terrifying and traumatic,” she said.

“And yeah, I still really, I really feel that I felt like I was abandoned by the system. I had to get the neighbours to help me. Yeah, the neighbours heard me screaming and thank God somebody came up to help.”

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The ER department at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital was closed for the third night in a row on Tuesday, due to “challenges with physician coverage.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the government has done “a lot of work in Prince Rupert over the last year.”

He cited a full-fledged locum program across B.C. with 150 physicians involved, including nurses, but he did recognize that the primary issue in Prince Rupert is the availability of doctors.

In addition, Dix said GoHealth BC is starting to provide nurses to rural areas like Prince Rupert.

He added three more doctors are coming to Prince Rupert this year.

“So in Prince Rupert, the emergency room hasn’t closed over the past year in spite of a lot of pressures,” Dix added.

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“And our doctors have really worked hard to make sure it stays open. It’s a real challenge sometimes during spring break, because our doctors and nurses are people, too, and they have circumstances they have to address over spring break.”

Dix said they are hoping it stabilizes after spring break.


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Rural vs urban health care divide


The mayor of Prince Rupert, Herb Pond, said he is extremely concerned about what is happening in the community but said the health-care system is failing many British Columbians.

“It’s not just a Prince Rupert problem,” he said.

“It’s a rural community problem. We’ve just joined now that club of rural communities that are experiencing these failures within the system. And it’s unacceptable.”

Pond said the community has engaged in many conversations with Dix and the local MLA.

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“We’re also organizing a broader community meeting, inviting specific stakeholders,” he said. “We know that industry is concerned. We’re the centrepoint for a number of First Nations and indeed, the population of Prince Rupert is 40 or 50-per cent First Nation.”

Pond added it’s difficult to know how many physicians are leaving Prince Rupert but he knows they now have fewer than they had before.

He said the trend is worrisome.


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Reflecting on her recent experience, Losier said rural communities across B.C. need help.

“We need help immediately,” she said. “We can’t be left in the lurch as people will start to die.”

Budnisky is also worried if this happens again and he needs medical attention.

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“I know if I do, I’m in trouble,” he said. “Plain and simple. There’s no help here. The closest help is two hours away.”


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