Relatives of an 84-year-old said they left her at a clinic overnight after medics had refused to even look at a worsening leg infection. Who's responsibility is it?
It's a case in Argentina that has shined a light on the burdens of elderly care on the poor, and the question of who holds ultimate responsibility: the family or the state.
An 84-year-old woman suffering from dementia was left at a private clinic in San Juan, in western Argentina last Saturday, with a note asking the facility to take her in. The letter, written by her stepdaughter, read, "it pains me, but I can't take care of Ursulina," without help from the PAMI, an Argentine social services agency.
Ursulina was found dehydrated, ill-fed and unable to speak, with an "anxious" temperament and skin lesions. The head of quality control at the Santa Clara clinic, Carlos Fiorentino, told Clarín daily she would be taken to a state facility for medical checks and to be housed.
When a hospital refuses a patient
Police soon found her family, who are not blood relatives. "I lost control of the situation," the step-granddaughter Abigail reportedly told PAMI officials. Marcio Meglioli, head of PAMI, said the granddaughter explained that Ursulina was not technically her grandmother, as she had not married her grandfather, but had helped raise his children and grandchildren over a lifetime.
It's the hospital that abandoned her.
The granddaughter told a local daily, Diario de Cuyo, that caring for Ursulina was costly and the state was not helping. But the final straw that led the family to leave her at the clinic was an infection in her lower back that smelled, suggesting a possible gangrene.
Initially, a hospital refused to see her, she said. "My mother and father took her by cab to a hospital. The nurse was telling us she was fine, to take her home, without even checking her. My mother was saying, 'can't you smell it?'.. she's rotting."
"it's the hospital that abandoned her," the granddaughter said. "Abandonment is keeping her at home and letting her rot to death."
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