The death of a well-known homeless man from White Rock has his sister wondering why provincial policy kept her away from his side during his final days.
Ryan Ashe, who became something of a fixture in the White Rock area, died early last week from what is believed to have been lung cancer. Ashe reportedly passed away at the Surrey Hospice after being transferred from Peace Arch Hospital.
However, his sister, Orphee Martin, is still trying to piece together what exactly happened to her brother, and why she was turned away from the hospital after hearing rumours that he had been admitted with lung cancer.
"I had phoned up Peace Arch because somebody had said they saw him there and I was told there was no record of him there," she said. "Well he was there, but that's the response the province is told to tell everybody."
According to Martin, because her brother was under the care of the province after being taken off the streets last fall, nobody was allowed information regarding his whereabouts or condition if they were not named as next of kin.
"When you're under the care of the government, they don't give information to anyone," said Martin. "Once he came under the health ministry's care, he became invisible. So all the people that may have wanted to visit him - and I certainly did - weren't able to because we were told he wasn't there."
Now, Martin is calling on the province to change its policy in order to make it easier for family members to find out about loved ones before it's too late.
At Fraser Health, the authority responsible for much of the province's health care, spokesperson Erin Labbe said she was unable to comment on the specifics of the case due to privacy and confidentiality regulations.
"Specific patient information can only be released to authorized individuals, such as health-care providers and next of kin," said Labbe. "If an individual is admitted to a hospital within the Fraser Health Authority, Fraser Health can confirm the patient's admission and location to people who phone and ask about them by name. However, some individuals specifically request that this information not be released. In this case, Fraser Health will not disclose any information about the patient."
But Martin said her brother had suffered from mental illness following a car accident nearly 20 years ago, and wondered how the ministry determined who the next of kin would be in those situations.
"They should have asked some deeper questions because is it really right to be telling people who are phoning hospitals to see if a family member is there to tell them there's no record of that person there?" asked Martin.
Finally, Martin said she'd like to thank the community for accepting her brother as one of their own and making his final years enjoyable, despite his being homeless.
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