Published: July 15, 2021
VANCOUVER — David von Holtum wanted something most of us take for granted.
He wanted to go home.
But it was a fight with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority that he wouldn’t get the chance to win.
“Unintentionally, the health authorities destroyed David’s life,” said Paul Caune, who successfully fought for his own right to live in the community with support 14 years ago.
Von Holtum, 65, spent most of the past four years living in St. Paul’s Hospital.in downtown Vancouver after complications from surgery required him to be hooked up to special medical equipment for 12 hours a day.
In May, he was transferred to George Pearson Centre, where he said staff didn’t know how to operate the equipment and that he went more than a week without proper nutrition. The health authority disputed his assertion that staff were not trained to operate the special equipment.
All along, von Holtum just wanted to return to his Vancouver apartment with home support.
He was denied.
“They take my hope away,” he told CTV News Vancouver through tears back in May.
“They take my will to live away. It’s devastating.”
Von Holtum’s family says health workers suggested his aging mom could learn to care for him if he wanted to live on his own.
“They wanted to train my 90-year-old mother who shakes like a leaf to administer it to him,” said David’s brother, Steven von Holtum. “Who that person was that made that decision, it’s mind-boggling.”
Von Holtum’s family says he developed an infection at George Pearson and ended up back in St. Paul’s Hospital.
“It was horrible at the end. It was horrible,” said David’s mother Dolly von Holtum, who says she’s experiencing nightmares as she remembers how much pain he was in.
Von Holtum died in hospital last week.
“All he wanted was to go home and be happy for the time he had and they took it away from him,” the grieving mother said.
Caune, who has complex medical needs, believes von Holtum could have lived in the community with proper support and says health officials failed him.
“They simply are not respectful of a citizen’s right and reasonable desire to live with human dignity,” he said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix was asked about von Holtum’s case Wednesday. He said he couldn’t speak directly to the issue because of privacy laws, but did say von Holtum’s case would be reviewed.
“We have ways of independently reviewing such things and we will,” Dix said.
In a statement to CTV News, the health ministry said, in part, that B.C. “is committed to improvements in home health.”
“Budget 2021 announced roughly $68 million over three years of the fiscal plan to increase support for home health services, including increasing care aides and community providers,” the ministry’s statement continued.
Now, von Holtum’s family is urging the minister to put more funding into home support and do a better job of ensuring people who can be cared for at home get that opportunity.