People with disabilities not quite yet people. Trifecta edition.


Further to the story on a doctor working in rural Victoria denied residency because he has a son with Down Syndrome, CBC News Canada has reported that a critical care doctor’s residency status has been up in the air because he has a daughter with a disability. Here’s the kicker: Stanley Muwanguzi’s daughter doesn’t even live with him. She lives in residential care in South Africa.

“Immigration cleared for MD with disabled daughter”

A critical care doctor whose immigration application was rejected because his daughter might be a drain on the health-care system says he will be allowed to remain in Calgary after all. […]

Muwanguzi works at the Peter Lougheed Hospital in Calgary and has been practising in Canada since 2002.

He was initially turned down for permanent residence because under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a “person whose health condition, severe developmental delay associated with cerebral palsy, might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services,” is inadmissible to Canada, according to a letter he received from the government.

Since Muwanguzi’s “non-accompanying family member is inadmissible to Canada,” he was also “inadmissible.”


Next up, a woman who uses a wheelchair and who requested emergency assistance in a Marks & Spencer lavatory (supposedly an accessible one) was sent a letter banning her from all M&S stores for life.

“Disabled woman ‘banned’ from M&S”

Cerebral palsy sufferer Susan Curran, 58, was told she was barred after she got stuck in an M&S disabled lavatory and rang the emergency bell.

She was helped out but a manageress then told her she was not allowed back to the store on her own because staff were not trained to deal with her and workers were being put at risk.

Miss Curran was also given a letter informing her she was the subject of a “trespass order”.

It said: “Your right as a member of the public to enter into any of our premises is now withdrawn. You are not permitted to enter into any of our stores again. If you choose to ignore this notice you will be asked to leave.”

M&S has since apologised to Miss Curran, saying that the trespass order was issued by mistake. But the supermarket giant said it still wanted her to have a chaperone at stores. […]

A spokeswoman for M&S said: […] “As she has a condition that requires specific care that retail staff in M&S or any other store are not trained to provide, we have asked that wherever possible she is accompanied by someone who would be better equipped to help her if she feels unwell.”


Lastly, an man with communication issues died in Galway after being discharged from hospital without transport. He wandered around the hospital for over an hour before attempting to walk fifty miles to his home. He never made it home.

“Disabled patients’ code urged after death of deaf man (60)”

The inquest was told that Mr Flaherty, who was deaf and had a speech impediment, had been treated in University hospital Galway for a suspected broken arm in February this year. […]

Mr Mannion said that most people in the community in Clifden knew that Mr Flaherty needed assistance. He essentially lived in sheltered accommodation.

But Tony O’Connor, senior counsel for the hospital, said that while Mr Flaherty’s hearing difficulty and speech impediment were highlighted in a doctor’s referral letter, other limitations were not apparent. […]

Mr Ryan [HSE taxi driver] said he dropped Mr Flaherty at the hospital and pointed out to him the reception desk he needed to check in at. The inquest heard that Mr Flaherty presented himself, was treated for a fractured arm and was asked to go to Merlin Park Hospital in the city the following morning to attend a fracture clinic.

The hospital was not aware of how he arrived at the hospital. If it was known that he had arrived there by HSE taxi, this would be attached to his file and transport home would have been arranged. But staff in the accident and emergency unit were unaware how he arrived and Mr Flaherty had told them he was okay for a lift home when asked.

But solicitor Mr Mannion said Mr Flaherty was the sort of man who would have said “yes” to nearly every question.

Coroner Ciarán McLoughlin heard that Mr Flaherty, who he knew personally and had treated in the past, had never been in Galway city unaccompanied before.

The eight-person jury was shown CCTV footage which showed Mr Flaherty wandering around the hospital for an hour and a quarter after he was discharged.

He was last seen leaving the hospital shortly before 6pm on February 27th this year, walking in the direction of Clifden, some 50 miles away.

Mr Flaherty, who was wearing just a dark T-shirt and tracksuit trousers, asked directions of a number of people. He walked about four miles before he was knocked down and died instantly from severe head injuries.

Dr McLoughlin said it was clear that there was no procedure in the hospital for ensuring that a person with a disability would be brought safely home.

Categories: Miscellaneous

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10 replies

  1. Oh my god, what a mess. I don’t have anything better to say.

  2. The last story didn’t surprise me at all, as someone who used to organise patient transport, and occasionally had trouble working out which patients were reliable in answering questions and which weren’t. The person organising transport is likely to be a receptionist, who doesn’t know anything about a patient and doesn’t have their medical records. I once spent hours trying to contact the husband of a patient to come collect her, using the number she had recited, as it turned out the very well-presented lady was demented, and her husband had not driven in many years. This only worked out safely because I found her grandson’s phone number.
    Even when hospitals get it right, taxi-drivers can get it oh so wrong. I have known patients to be dropped off at hospital, not remember why they are there, and walk themselves home. I have also had to drive patients home myself when cabs just didn’t turn up, and I think it’s frighteningly common that people are sent home from hospital alone without their families being notified. A friend’s mother died after a fall a few hours after she was sent home alone, her daughter thought she was still safely in hospital.

  3. One simple thing can be a start in preventing many of these situations: don’t ask “Are you right to get home?”, ask “What is your plan to get home?”
    The doctor’s referral letter highlighted the communication issues, yet a “yes/no” question was still asked in a crucial situation. Healthcare Interviewing 101 should have covered this.
    Discharge planning is a disaster all over the place, and it’s a deadly disaster.

  4. The rural doctor story has encouraged others to come forward – the quote at the bottom is interesting:

    ”They’ve told us that although our application would be automatically rejected, under law we can lodge an appeal because Down Syndrome is not considered the same condition it once was.

  5. Shame about that lady’s experience in M&S, I’ve always found them very helpful and especially welcoming to my Assistance Dog. It does highlight one of the irritating things about being disabled – the occasional requirement to be accompanied (when realistically it’s not actually necessary). The Edinburgh Military Tattoo do this and it really p*sses me off because I live alone and move about quite independently but would not be allowed to attend the Tattoo in my scooter if I couldn’t find someone ‘able bodied’ to join me (this seems to be a concert venue thing). The excuse is ‘health & safety’. Actually I don’t need a bodyguard – if I have an unexpected emergency then I expect to be able to ask for help as any other customer would. They don’t ban pregnant women ‘just in case’ they go into labour unexpectedly, after all.

  6. When I was travelling with my late (disabled) partner in 2000 the worst place in London was the V&A. Getting her a wheelchair seemed to be a problem and the tires were flat; toilets are through two heavy swinging doors; and signage is minimal. What they do is have ‘attendants’ all over the place to assist you, so you have to keep asking for help instead of being able to be independent most of the time. There was a special map for wheel-chair-bound patrons, but they didn’t give it to us – I found it on the counter when we were leaving. I left a long and detailed report on our experience, and when we got back to Sydney there was a defensive letter waiting from the V&A administration, explaining that they had won some award for the their services to the disabled. I dunno; maybe we were unlucky with the desk staff that day…

  7. Betcha $20 that they shouted the questions at the deaf man, overpronouncing with exaggerated mouth movements. And when he nodded (having learned that hearing people accept this), they were satisfied that he understood. A friend of mine waited, feverish and shaking, for hours at an emergency room. He had told them “I’m deaf. I won’t hear the PA. You have to come and get me.” When he finally asked at the desk he was told that he’d been called two hours ago, and when he didn’t respond they thought he’d gone home. He said “I told you I’m deaf.” They said “We turned up the PA when we made the announcement.”

  8. Today’s news brings another case of an Australian healthcare worker refused residency because of a child with Down Syndrome. This time, it was a British midwife working in Perth.
    Australia faces a severe shortage of midwives and of nursing staff. The government has identified the need to increase the midwifery and nursing workforce by over 10 000, and is offering cash bonuses of thousands of dollars for staff who return to the workforce. (see also the 2002 workforce report.)

  9. People who don’t live with a disability have an entirely different definition of “accessable” than I do. For example, I think if one has to go all over hell’s half acre to find either the “accessible” entrance or the lifts, your site is not accessible. I’ve been very firmly informed by people in charge of such things that this is not so.
    I suspect they’d see it differently if they ever had to wander around a strange location in a wheelchair, or with crutches. But hey! They say it, so it must be so.
    There was a 17-year-old girl here in Halifax who was turned away from giving blood because she’s Deaf. I actually believe Canadian Blood Services when they say that’s against policy, and it was the volunteer who erred. But if you live in a world where Deaf people exist, you make damned sure you volunteers know how to handle the oral part of the pre-donation interview with a Deaf person, you know?
    I’m so pathetically grateful that Don’s got Dutch citizenship (he’s a first generation Dutch-Canadian), so they can’t prevent us from immigrating to Europe.

  10. A collection of truly gobsmacking stories here, both in the post and the comments. What a disgrace.

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