No nursing care available for diabetic child in Niagara attending school

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Sabrina Ungor says she and her husband Jack Szczygiel both became registered nurses to “dedicate our lives to helping people.”

“And that makes me sad, because…now we need help and we’re being denied it.”

Their four-year-old daughter Hazel is expected to start kindergarten at École Ste-Marguerite-Bourgeoys, where she will join her big sister Olive.

But with a week until school resumes, her St. Catharines parents are still struggling to find a way to ensure she gets the care she needs to manage her type 1 diabetes at school, despite months of trying to arrange for a home nurse to visit the school for around two hours a day.

Ungor said Hazel’s doctors at McMaster Children’s Hospital submitted documents and medical prescriptions to Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant (HNHB) Home Support and Community Care Services (HNHB) on June 20, calling a community nurse, and she followed up with a phone call – the first of many – on June 27, and was told she would be placed on a waiting list. But due to a shortage of nurses, Ungor said there were still children waiting for care after registering a year ago.

Ungor is on leave from her job at Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Center until September 1, but she plans to extend this unpaid leave so she can continue to provide the nursing care her daughter needs.

“I don’t know what other alternative exists,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be anything from the multiple organizations I’ve contacted. No one has been able to tell me ‘Here’s what you can do’ or ‘You can apply for this.’

She has been in contact with HNHB 15 times while calling numerous other local, state and federal government organizations and insurers, but said no one could provide the answers she was looking for.

Ungor said she also spoke to the office of St. Catharines MLA Jennie Stevens several times.

Stevens said she plans to discuss the family’s situation in the provincial legislature this week.

“We have a shortage of nurses in our emergency rooms and in all the hospitals we have. That’s what’s happening with Bill 124,” she said, referring to provincial legislation that caps wage increases for public sector employees, including nurses, at 1% per year for three years.

The government, she added, “won’t budge on this and come up with a solution.”

“If they would repeal Bill 124, pay these nurses and public sector workers the pay they deserve after this pandemic – the burnout rate is horrendous,” Stevens added.

Meanwhile, Stevens said another woman was likely being forced out of her job to care for her child.

Szczygiel said he, too, took a brief leave from his job at Niagara Health, after Hazel was diagnosed with diabetes in early 2020.

He fears that at a time when hospitals across the province are struggling with a shortage of nurses, his wife is now likely to be forced to extend her leave, worsening the shortage at the rehabilitation hospital.

“We obviously know the gaps in health care right now. There are a lot of challenges right now,” he said.

Szczygiel said if they can’t get the help Hazel needs before Ungor returns to work after his extended leave, then he will have to take a leave of absence, “and we will lose another health care provider. full time and that means even more shortages, when she only needs two hours a day.

While Ungor said she plans to take time off from work for a few hours each day to look after her daughter at school, she worries about the impact this would have on other nurses.

“The problem is that I leave my load of patients. I will be leaving six patients,” she said, adding that another nurse would then be required to care for her patients as well as theirs.

Ungor said there was no way a child as young as Hazel could manage the disease without the care he needs.

She said nursing care is imperative for young children with diabetes like Hazel, who might not recognize the signs and symptoms associated with diabetes and need to be observed to manage it.

“It happens so fast. In 15 to 20 minutes they can pass out,” she said.

HNHB representatives could not immediately be reached to discuss the situation.

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