Healthcare red tape separating Canadian couple from each other

After more than 60 years living together, a man and his wife are being kept apart by a slow-moving healthcare system

by Leo Almazora

“In sickness and in health,” couples often vow at weddings. But nobody could have imagined that the healthcare system itself could separate a husband from his wife.

For 62 years, Wolf and Anita Gottschalk were inseparable – until a glitch in the Canadian healthcare system forced them to part ways. It’s been eight months of visits, and the hellos and goodbyes aren’t getting any easier.

It started when Wolf was taken to the hospital for congestive heart failure in January, and then moved to Yale Road Centre, a transitional facility where patients typically stay between 4 and 12 weeks, according to the Fraser Health Authority. However, Wolf’s heart condition meant he was hospitalized two more times, and he was bumped to the bottom of the wait list for transfer to a long-term care facility. Health workers judged him too infirm to go home.

The situation got more complicated two months ago when 81-year-old Anita, who has a pacemaker, moved into an assisted living complex at the Residences at Morgan Heights. The location caters to residents with various health needs, and the Gottschalks’ granddaughter, Ashley Bartyik, has been trying to get her grandfather transferred there.
"My grandfather needs more complex care, so he will have a nurse with him, whereas my grandmother doesn't need that," Ashley said, which means that Wolf would likely be placed in a different wing from Anita. "Morgan Heights offers both under the same roof. She could tuck him into bed at night and then go back to her room."

In the meantime, Ashley has been driving Anita from her Surrey, BC care complex to Wolf’s every other day; the trip takes 30 minutes each way, and the visits always end in tears. Their meeting last Tuesday, August 23, was especially heartbreaking.

“Today he was diagnosed with lymphoma,” Ashley said, reporting on her grandparents’ situation via a Facebook post showing a photo of the couple weeping together. “Besides that limiting his time and making this more urgent, his dementia is growing stronger each day, but his memory of my grandmother has not faded an inch...yet.”

The post has received more than 10,000 shares. It has received attention from sympathetic people all over the world, as well as NBC News and other media outlets, with most blaming their plight on Canada’s backlog-ridden healthcare system.

“The inherent problems with any huge system run by the state is that there is absolutely no motivation for anyone to excel,” wrote Rick Moran, a contributor to PJ Media who covered the story. “In the private sector, fear of being fired for incompetence or laziness is a wonderful inducement to success. Bonuses and the promise of advancement are also good motivators. But it's almost harder to fire a government employee than land a man on the moon. And there's little reward for working harder, or more efficiently.”

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