When Elise Nagy called the Hamilton General Hospital in late March to give them a heads up about a patient en route with an infection, she said she was asked by the charge nurse on the other end of the line when her workplace – a supervised consumption site – would be shutting down.
Ms. Nagy, a registered nurse, replied that the supervised consumption site would not be shutting down. It is an essential service.
The charge nurse was “upset” by that, Ms. Nagy says, and asked her why one of their patients was “taking up” one of the hospital’s designated isolated rooms for COVID-19 cases.
“I was speechless,” Ms. Nagy said in a recent e-mail to her higher-ups and shared with The Globe and Mail. “She then proceeded to tell me that their emergency beds ‘should be reserved for patients who make better life choices.’”
In a phone interview last week, Ms. Nagy said the response from that nurse – and other similar reactions by paramedics responding to overdose calls at the clinic – has been “really hard to swallow.”
She and other health-care workers who’ve been on the front lines of the opioid crisis in Hamilton fear the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the stigma that drug users face when seeking medical help. They worry about what effect this confluence of public health emergencies is going to have on some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.