Nursing shortage, lack of care make hospital stay ‘living hell’

by | Apr 4, 2023

Denied the support of her home care workers, Amanda Antworth suffers through a four-month stay at URVH, waiting hours for food, medication, personal care, and urgent procedures

By Theresa Blackburn

Amanda Antworth isn’t one to beat around the bush.

“It was a living hell; absolutely horrible,” she said of her four-month stay at the Upper River Valley Hospital (URVH).

Antworth lives with quadriplegia and has limited mobility in one arm since her ATV accident in the summer of 1999.

While she’s been home from the hospital since April 3, Antworth still struggles with her health and home care support.

On Dec. 9, 2022, Antworth was admitted to the URVH for a recurring bone infection.

“I think it was a few weeks in when I asked about keeping my (home care) workers. I told them some of the problems I was having, but they said because I was getting institutional care, I couldn’t have home care,” said Antworth, “even though, technically, that was my home.”

The 45-year-old Waterville woman began documenting issues on her cell phone and showed her digital diary entries to the River Valley Sun.

There were multiple personal care delays, medication delays, and sometimes four-hour delays in her being fed. She blames most of her issues on a lack of staff.

“I can’t do much with my hands,” she said. “I have to use a stylus to use my phone, and I can’t do that unless someone puts the strap on me in the morning, and often that didn’t happen until late. I used the phone to control my TV to call friends to stay connected. I was in a room by myself, so I was isolated. Meals were never (eaten) when the food was dropped off. I don’t know how often my food was reheated and left again.”

Antworth said it was often late morning before she was washed and dressed.

“The biggest issue was them (Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses) not following my doctor’s orders,” said Antworth, visibly frustrated.

We contacted Antworth’s attending physician, who, with Antworth’s permission, confirmed some of the problems she experienced.

Her doctor requested a bowel disimpaction, which aids in emptying the bowel. After multiple requests, the order was not filled by RNs or LPNs. Antworth’s doctor had to perform the procedure twice.

Antworth’s physician confirmed that her bowel was so full she was having leg spasms and once lost consciousness.

“I seriously could have died,” said Antworth. “That can cause the bowel to rupture. I’m still not right,” she said. “My belly is still distended and hard. How can they deny that? And yet, my home care workers could have done this, but they couldn’t come and help me because I’m getting care? Yeah, right.”

Antworth is on disability, which pays her $860 a month. She lives in a home owned by NB Housing and has to use the food bank to get by.

“I am struggling every day,” she said. “I struggle with home care; I struggle with having enough money to pay my bills. I have to use the foodbank, and then I have to struggle while I’m in the hospital, too.”

To add insult to injury, while Antworth was in the URVH, her accessible van was stolen and destroyed.

“I bought that with the $10,000 I got after my mother died, and $10,000 my friends and the community raised through fundraisers,” she said. “Now I don’t have transportation, and because the home care workers weren’t allowed to care for me when I was in the hospital, they had to look for work elsewhere, so now I’m home without care. My daughter had to leave school in Fredericton to come and help me. I’m still trying to find home care workers. She’s overwhelmed, and my friends have stepped in to help. Everything is such a mess,” she said.


Antworth reached out to Carleton MLA Bill Hogan while she was in the hospital, hoping he would advocate on her behalf. She said he told her he had directed staff to help her with whatever she needed, but she never heard back from them after their initial call.

“I think they dropped the ball,” she said. “Bill has helped me before, and I know he cares. He told his staff to reach out, and they got information from me, but then nothing.”

The attending doctor also spoke to Antworth’s social worker, advocating for her to receive home care during her hospital stay, but the request “went nowhere.”

One of Antworth’s home care workers, Shelly Etherington, is also a lifelong friend.

“I contacted the supervisor of Amanda‘s long-term disability social worker,” said Etherington. “I begged her to continue Amanda‘s case plan so she could have her home care workers at the hospital with her after Amanda almost choked to death on a drink of water.”

When the River Valley Sun contacted the Department of Social Development for comment, department spokesperson Rebecca Howland sent a statement.

“The Department of Social Development and the Minister have strict obligations to abide by confidentiality legislation and therefore cannot speak about specific situations,” the statement reads.

“It is the policy of the Disability Support Program that when an individual is away from their home environment for something like a hospitalization where they are receiving care in a designated health facility, services are paused and are restarted when the individual returns home. The discharge to community typically is accompanied by an updated plan given the individual’s needs may have increased or changed since their admission,” Howland shared.

“Social Development does not provide hospitalbased care or provide services in a health care setting. Services are specific to supporting an individual in the community. While an individual is in a hospital, the hospital would provide care according to the individual’s needs. As the hospital begins to consider discharge to the community, Social Development would reassess the individual’s needs to ensure that the supports that were in place prior to admission were going to continue to meet the needs of the individual. If that is not the case, the support plan is adjusted prior to the individual returning home.”

The River Valley Sun contacted a nurse manager to ask why an RN or LPN would not follow an attending physician’s request. We were told it likely wasn’t in their scope of practice, and they probably didn’t have personal experience or training in bowel disimpaction.

The River Valley Sun’s calls to the Nurses Asso- ciation of New Brunswick and the Association of New Brunswick Licensed Practical Nurses to determine if this procedure was in their ‘scope of practice’ were not returned before press time.

We did get confirmation from a healthcare educator, who asked not to be named, that bowel disimpaction is not part of an LPN’s competencies.

We could not confirm, at press time, if this procedure was in an RN’s scope of practice.

“I don’t think, with the way the health care system is right now, that my home-care request should have been turned down,” said Antworth.

Antworth now wonders whether the length of her hospital stay would have been shorter had she been able to access the help of her home care workers.

“I feel like it just gave me more issues to deal with. How can you deny me home care, saying I am getting care in the hospital? The place is a mess. I would hear them

(patients) calling out and alarms ringing all the time. That’s not health care,” said Antworth.

The River Valley Sun left messages with the office of the URVH Facilities Manager, Sherry Leech, who did not return our calls before press time.

Etherington said the focus of Amanda’s close friends has been to get her back on track with home care, but says the Department of Social Development isn’t being helpful.

“Two social workers came to meet with us about Amanda’s future on April 13, “ explained Etherington, ”and they were basically telling her that if she didn’t agree with her plan, to use home care workers they approve, then they’d cut her off.”

Antworth says she prefers private home care rather than dealing with two agencies – a private company and Social Development – for her care.

“I just want to be able to have control over who is in my home and who is taking care of me. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask.”


Here are the numbers to call:

Valley Comm. Health 356-6600

Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868

Dept. of Social Development 1-833-733-7835

Law Enforcement Woodstock Town Police: (506) 325-4601

RCMP, Woodstock area: 325-3000 (For immediate help: 1-888-506-7267)

RCMP, Nackawic area, (Fredericton dispatch): 357-4300 (For immediate help: 1-888-506-1472) Call 911 in an emergency!

Crimestoppers: 1-800-222-8477

Animal Control

Town of Woodstock Police (will dispatch help) 325-4601

York County Officer Randy Casey 459-7831

Rural Areas call the NBSPCA 1-877-722-1522


Hope for Wellness Helpline 1-855-242-3310

Offering immediate help to Indigenous peoples across Canada. Available 24/7, it offers counselling and crisis intervention.

Al-Anon Family Group Woodstock 506-328-6122

For friends and family of alcoholics, meets Wednesdays 7-8 pm at the Woodstock Baptist Church, 785 Main St., Woodstock Woodstock Addictions and Mental Health 506-325-4419

Mon-Fri 8:30 am – 4:30 pm

Perth-Andover Addictions and Mental Health 506-273-4701

Mon-Fri 8:30 am – 4:30 pm

Mental Health Mobile Crisis Unit 1-888-667-0444 – 7 days a week from 2 – 10 pm

Inpatient Detoxification Services: access by self-referral only; all admissions are voluntary. The detoxification unit provides inpatient treatment for the withdrawal from mood altering substances such as alcohol, cocaine, opiates and other drugs.

Fredericton Detoxification Unit 506-452-5525 / Located at 65 Brunswick St., Fredericton, NB

A 10-bed unit that provides medical support, education, and recovery planning for substance abuse and gambling. Phone 452-5525; accepts messages only, calls are returned to plan admissions Monday through Friday.

Miramichi Detoxification Unit 506-623-6175 / Located at 500 Water St., Miramichi. NB.

Moncton Detoxification Unit 506-856-2333 / Located at 81 Albert St., Moncton, NB.

Ridgewood Addiction Services 506-674-4300 / Located at 416 Bay St., South Bay, Saint John, NB provides a range of services for individuals, youth and family members affected by substance abuse and gambling.

Residential rehabilitation facilities

Ridgewood Centre (Saint John) 506-647-4300 / 416 Bay St., South Bay, Saint John, NB

Campbellton Regional Addiction Services 506-789-7055 / 53 Gallant Dr., Campbellton, NB

Rising Sun Treatment Centre (First Nations) 506-627-4626 / 31 Riverview Rd., Eel Ground, NB

Portage Atlantic 1-888-735-9800 / Cassidy Lake, NB, is a nonprofit organization established in 1995, operates a residential drug addiction rehabilitation centre for Atlantic Canada youth (14-21) in New Brunswick.

Valley Outreach offers free, confidential support to someone living with, leaving, or has left an intimate-partner violent relationship, or has been sexually assaulted, or knows someone who needs support. Offering support from Nackawic to Plaster Rock. For more info, contact Manon Albert, Valley Outreach Coordinator, by calling 1-506-328-9680, or text 1-506328-7246, or email valleyoutreach@nb.aibn. com or reach out on Facebook Messenger.

The River Valley Sun is a free, editorially independent monthly newspaper serving the Upper St. John River Valley of New Brunswick. “Our mission is to share feature stories, a variety of viewpoints, and information about local community events, minor sports, and municipal news that isn’t always covered by mainstream media. We believe a community is stronger when people know and understand their neighbours.”

Editorial Policy: The River Valley Sun welcomes letters on subjects of interest to our readers and prints columns on a variety of topics. Use of any material is at the discretion of the editors, and we reserve the right to omit or edit letters to meet space requirements, for clarity, or to avoid libel or invasion of privacy. Letters and columns published do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies or beliefs of the newspaper. The River Valley Sun follows Canadian Press Style guidelines.

Early Recovery Group, Woodstock – each Wednesday (unless school is closed due to weather) from 9:30 – 11:00 a.m. at Bicentennial Boardroom (1st Floor), 200 King Street, Bicentennial Place, Woodstock, NB

Early Recovery Group in Perth-Andover – each Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Mental Health and Addictions at 35F Tribe Rd., Perth-Andover,
Harvest House Woodstock hosts MAMA Meetings (Mothers Against Meth Addiction) on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. This is a women-only group, providing a safe place for women struggling with family members whose lives are being destroyed by drug abuse. For info: contact Natasha Smith at 323-9315. Harvest House also offers other recovery programs. For more info, contact them at (506) 594-5000.


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