Staying in same hospital room with a man has Winnipeg woman speaking out

A Winnipeg woman is speaking out after she was placed in the same room as a male patient for an overnight stay at St. Boniface Hospital.

The practice, which both the hospital and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) say is not uncommon, takes place when necessary “to ensure timely care for patients,” according to the local health authority.

“I went in one night for general abdominal surgery. I woke up, recovered, they rolled me into a room,” Brenda Jones said. “Then I heard a male voice, and I said to the nurse that was with me, ‘I’m in a room with a male, I don’t feel comfortable with this.’”

The nurse told Jones in cases where there is a single bed left in a room and no one of the same gender to fill it, they will put someone of the opposite gender in the room rather than have a bed sitting empty.

The 62-year-old said since she was in just the one night, the hospital didn’t move her to another room after she raised her concerns — though she admits she didn’t specifically ask to be switched.

After being released the next day, Jones contacted the hospital’s Patient Relations office, and received a follow up phone call several days later.

“The gist of it was if I had a good reason for not wanting this — say if I had a past problem with sexual assault or something like that, that’s the impression I got — that okay, I could bring it up,” she said. “But I said to this lady, it doesn’t matter if or if I do not have a past history with sexual assault.”

“The fact that I’m a woman, and I’m uncomfortable and I don’t want to be placed in a [room] with a man is good enough reason for me.”

In a statement, the hospital said for patients who express concerns about sharing a room with another patient of the opposite gender, their practice is to let them and their family know that they will try to transfer the patient to a room with someone of the same gender if a bed becomes available.

“I told the person I was speaking with on Friday … ‘Okay the next time I have to go into the hospital, I want to know that I could phone somebody and — I would do it in advance if they want — but I would phone somebody and have them tell me that yes, we will make arrangements to put you in a room with a woman,” Jones said.

The WRHA said in a statement that it does not have a formal policy regarding gender and shared rooms, but it does consider requests from patients wishing to be transferred to a room with another person of the same gender “in exceptional circumstances, on a case-by-case basis.”

Both the health authority and St. Boniface Hospital encourage concerned patients to contact the Patient Relations Office.

But Jones said she’s not satisfied by the response she received after expressing her concerns.

“This nurse said to me, while I was in the hospital, he said ‘If anything inappropriate happens, you can always tell us,’” she said. “And I said ‘What? Something has to happen to me and then I call you and then we deal with it?’ Really? I couldn’t believe that statement.”

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