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Long-term care man refused use of hi-tech wheelchair by hospital

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A man left quadriplegic by cerebral palsy will celebrate his 60th birthday today in the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, where he has spent most of his life and his family thanked the staff for his long-term care.

But Carla Franklin, his sister, questioned why hospital authorities had denied Luke Caines the use of a $17,000 custom-fit powered wheelchair — which meant he had spent much of his recent life confined to a bed because he cannot support his head and neck on his own.

Ms Franklin said the hospital had “no right” to keep Mr Caines from using the powered wheelchair.

She added: “Our family appreciates the management and staff for caring for our brother over these many years.”

But Ms Franklin said: “Currently, the situation is the hospital has deemed his chair unsafe.

“It might be that they don’t want him to operate it himself, but he can still sit in it.”

She added Mr Caines was “forced to stay in his bed” as a result.

Ms Franklin said: “I have been fighting the hospital almost two years.

“The chair is specifically designed for him. There’s no doubt it’s safer than what he’s dealing with now.”

Ms Franklin said her brother, who was born prematurely, has been a ward of the hospital for more than 45 years since the death of their mother.

She added there was “no facility in Bermuda for him” other than the hospital, where he is in the Perry ward.

The switch at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital to the new acute care wing in 2014 came with a downgrade for one of the hospital’s longest residents, whose condition was misdiagnosed due to the lack of knowledge about cerebral palsy in the 1960s.

Ms Franklin said doctors did not believe he would survive.

She added Bermuda has never had a centre that can cater to someone with Mr Caines’ level of disability – except the King Edward, where his difficulties have been worsened by the unavoidable restrictions for vulnerable patients because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Franklin said: “Luke is the same all the time – he is OK, and generally happy.

“Obviously he’d prefer not to be there, but he is not an unhappy person. But every time I go there he is in his bed, and he hates that.”

She said her brother had a private room before the 2014 changes at the hospital, which resulted in him being moved to a public ward.

Ms Franklin said other factors, such as the loss of his wheelchair because he was “bumping into things” had increased Mr Caines’ difficulties.

She added: “His only friends in there are the staff. They are the ones who keep his spirits up. Otherwise it’s getting worse for him because he isn’t moving about.”

A spokeswoman for the Bermuda Hospitals Board said that “strict patient confidentiality” meant individual patients could not be discussed.

But she added: “It is important to note that patients are assessed by our allied health professional as needed to determine the appropriate equipment for their needs, including beds and chairs.

“The medical, physical and mental condition of patients are considered in these assessments.

“Only options deemed safe for the patient are used.”

The spokeswoman said patients’ needs could change as they aged.

She said: “Many residents in BHB long term care benefit from public rooms, as it helps provide them stimulation and social interaction.”

Mr Caines will be unable to leave the hospital today to celebrate his milestone birthday because of pandemic precautions.

But Ms Franklin said wellwishers would be able to drive by the hospital later today, where Mr Caines will be able to see family and friends from the hospital entrance.

She added: “It will be a brief event, and we can’t touch him. Some of us will pass gifts through one of the hospital workers.

“And, of course, we will send him a cake.”

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Published October 16, 2020 at 7:00 am (Updated October 16, 2020 at 12:42 am)

Long-term care man refused use of hi-tech wheelchair by hospital

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