30-year-old who died following a leg infection failed by N.L. health system, say friends

Friends of a man in St.

Weijian Fang, 30, died alone in his apartment on Monkstown Road in late May after his leg became infected. He hasn’t had a GP since 2017.

His friends hope speaking out about it will make a difference.

Dean Barnes, who has known Fang for more than a decade, said: “The more stories like this are told, the more pressure the system will have to improve so that people don’t die of something completely controllable. treatable.

Fang’s body was found on May 24, 2022. Police and a friend went to his apartment after he failed to show up for work at Little Sparo, a downtown restaurant St. John.

Fang was born in China in 1991. When he was young, he came to Canada with his parents and settled in St. John’s. His mother died of ovarian cancer in 2015. The family later lost ownership of the restaurant they owned on Duckworth Street, The Bamboo Garden.

Fang’s father returned to China. Barnes said he was too unwell to return to Canada to find his son’s remains. His ashes were found by relatives living in the US.

“It’s heartbreaking. His grandparents wanted his parents and him to have a better life, that’s why they came to Canada. His mother passed away at the age of forty from cancer and Now he’s dead at 30,” said Barnes, a business data systems analyst. advise.

Dean Barnes met Weijian Fang at the Bamboo Garden restaurant, a business run by the Weijian family, on boxing day 2010. (Mark Quinn / CBC)

Barnes held back tears when asked to describe what kind of person Fang was.

“He’s the gentlest soul you could hope to meet. He’s kind and generous. He’s worked from a dishwasher to a cook in a restaurant. He’s sending money home. home for my grandparents. I never heard him complain. I didn’t even know about his condition,” he said.

Fang lives with diabetes. Barnes said a medical examiner determined sepsis, the body’s response to infection that can lead to organ failure, was the cause of his death. He said that when Fang was found, one of his legs was blackened from the knee down.

The more stories that are told, the more pressure the system will put on to improve so that 30-year-olds don’t die from something completely treatable.– Dean Barnes

Fang has not had a family doctor for 5 years, since his doctor retired. He is one of more than 125,000 people in Newfoundland and Labrador that the Provincial Medical Association says does not have a GP. His friends strongly believe that they would still have Fang if he had access to primary care.

“It’s entirely possible,” Mr Barnes said.

“In the restaurant industry, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. What does he do? Just camp in the emergency room and hope he gets seen?”

Brenda Johnson is Weijian’s longtime friend. She said she often joked that she was his “Newfoundland mom”. (Mark Quinn / CBC)

Barnes said Fang’s death showed how “crazyly broken” the province’s health care system was. He also said that it is not a new problem.

He said he has witnessed systemic healthcare problems with the treatment his father received more than two decades ago.

“COVID-19 is used as an excuse, but COVID-19 doesn’t create new problems. It exacerbates them,” Barnes said.

‘Didn’t get the support he needed’

Brenda Johnson also met Fang and his parents more than a decade ago at their restaurant.

She said that their relationship grew stronger after Fang lost her mother. Johnson is also concerned about Fang’s inability to access primary care.

It is just a waste and should never be.– Brenda Johnson

“He was supposed to be on the waiting list because he went to the Health Science Center a few times in an ambulance from work but he was never assigned a doctor,” she said. .

“It was just a waste and should never have been. He was really sick. The hospital should have known about it and put him on the priority list for care, but it didn’t happen. out like that and he died.”

Johnson hopes talking about Fang will get people to push for a better health care system.

“I want people to care enough to speak up, and I want the people in authority with the health care system to take action. You know, how many people have to die? start their lives and that. happened. It was just a tragedy.”

Weijian Fang with some of his relatives. (Weijian Fang family)

Johnson, a retired Bell Canada employee in his 60s, says the province’s aging population should have concerns about the current state of Newfoundland and Labrador’s healthcare system and where it will be in the future. future.

“Honey, I’m there. You know, I had something happen and I had to get out of the ambulance. A little stroke and a few things, and it wasn’t great,” she said.

The province’s Department of Health and Community Services responded to CBC News’ request for comment with a statement, calling the doctor shortage a government priority.

“The department sends its condolences to the family and friends of the deceased man. However, for privacy reasons, we are unable to talk about an individual case.”

“The government understands the challenges associated with not having a primary care provider. We have established an Office of Recruitment and Retention … and additional staff have been hired.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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