Canadian man left to die in Dominican hospital
Faced with the choice between a comfy bed and a hearty meal after spending more than seven weeks in a Dominican hospital, Max Ronayne opts for blueberry pancakes.  


Wasaga Beach resident Megan Ratnam obliges, taking him out for a midnight breakfast in Toronto while waiting for his connecting flight home to Alberta.

He is chatty and happy - a new man compared to the one Ratnam discovered wasting away in a Dominican hospital - but he needs medical care and is destined for the operating room upon arriving home.

Ratnam was alerted to the Canadian man's presence in the public hospital by one of her friends in Ascension Village, where she visits regularly, acting as a guide for church groups that bring assistance to impoverished Haitians through an organization called Dominican Crossroads.

She said the villagers were concerned, knowing that a public hospital in the Dominican Republic is no place for a Canadian man, especially one without a support network.

Ratnam says only the poorest of the poor seek care at the public hospitals. The nurses who work there are only responsible for administering medication. All other care must be provided by a family member or other support person. All bedding and meals are brought in from the outside. Hospital staff does not provide bathing and other basic care.

It is believed that Ronayne was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 20. He was badly disoriented and incoherent when Ratnam learned of his situation and went to see him one month later.

When Ratnam returned to the hospital with a mission group on Feb. 23 she found him lying on a metal cot in a room with several other patients. He had a physical injury to his hip and appeared to have brain damage.

Because he could not make it to the washroom he was laying there in adult diapers. Ratnam said he was dependent on local nuns to change them when they came through the hospital periodically.

He could only remember his name and a phone number, which turned out to be the number for his condo in Edmonton, where he lives alone. He did not remember how he had been injured.

Ratnam said it was as if the staff at the Dominican hospital was simply waiting for Ronayne to die because he had no money to get the proper care at a private hospital.

Thinking Ronayne had a brain injury, Ratnam called the Canadian Embassy in Dominican Republic and she was told officials were aware of his presence in the public hospital but said they could not discuss his case, citing confidentiality.

She then contacted Foreign Affairs and two Edmonton MPs but was unable to get help for Ronayne.

Using Canada 411, Ratnam reversed the phone number, got Ronayne's name and began calling anyone with the same name. She eventually reached the home of Ronayne's brother and informed the family that Ronayne had been in the hospital for more than one month and was in bad shape.

While Ronayne lay disoriented in the hospital, his family and Ratnam tried to get him moved to the private hospital at the family's expense but they were unable to get help from embassy officials.

Ratnam went to visit Ronayne two more times and it wasn't until March 3 - the day she was to meet the group from the Rotary Club of Wasaga Beach and Area - that he recognized her for the first time.

Becoming more lucid, Ronayne revealed that he had been abusing drugs, which was the reason he had been so disoriented, but he was very guarded with his story.

"I think he had a fear that if I knew who he was I would walk away," said Ratnam.

She said Ronayne kept asking her why she kept coming back.

"I thought that's what the Canadian Embassy was for, to take care of Canadians. But if you commit a crime in another country you are on your own," said Ratnam.

Ronayne does not speak Spanish so he had no idea what was happening as he came to.

It turns out Ronayne was facing charges in the Dominican.

On March 9 the Rotary Club's medical team visited the public hospital.

"He was just lying in the bed there and there was no plans for surgery for him because I think down there unless you pay for the surgery, if you're a foreigner, so they were just keeping him in the hospital," said Evan McIntosh, a doctor from Toronto. "I think he would have died there because when you lie in the hospital too long you get bedsores and they get infected and you can go septic. They can also get blood clots in their legs which go to the lungs so I think he would have died."

McIntosh offered to pay up to $5,000 for the surgery, which earned Ronayne an immediate transfer to the private hospital.

On March 10, the day the Rotarians were leaving the Dominican, Ratnam jumped in a taxi, went to the private hospital to talk to the surgeon, worked out a price for the surgery - somewhere between $3,400 and $4,500 including two days of post operative care, arranged for an ambulance, jumped in and rode to the private hospital where she only had five minutes to tell Ronayne what was happening.

It turned out the orthopedic surgeon said he could not do the hip surgery but was able to do a minor surgery that would allow him to travel back to Canada.

McIntosh agrees that although he didn't end up paying for the surgery because Ronayne's family picked up the bill his offer of financial help really did get the ball rolling.

"If we hadn't sort of stumbled across him, he would have died there for sure," said McIntosh.

But before Ronayne could leave the Dominican Republic he had to deal with his legal problems.  

Officials at Dominican Crossroads worked to get Ronayne's charges dropped and arranged for a flight to Canada.

Ronayne was supposed to fly to Montreal on March 20 but the Canadian paperwork wasn't in order so his departure was delayed another five days.

On March 25, Ratnam - who'd returned to Canada on March 10 - was called to duty again. Ronayne's brother asked if she would meet Ronayne at the Toronto airport because he had a lengthy layover. At 9 p.m. that night Ratnam got the call. He had made the flight but it was delayed and he would land in Toronto at 1:45 a.m.

And that is how Ratnam and her parents ended up eating pancakes in the middle of the night with a man she had rescued from Dominican Republic.  

Upon arriving home, Ronayne went straight to the University of Alberta Hospital where he had a rod installed in his thigh and he is not expecting any more surgeries. He was discharged on April 11.

"After almost three months of being bedridden, being up is good, but I find my have no gas in the tank," said Ronayne when asked how he is feeling. "The endurance is low but that's to be expected. When I was down where Megan and them found me in that public hospital, I was slowly starving to death."

He said he had been hallucinating in the hospital and was dependent on the nuns to bring him his only nourishment, a watery soup in a plastic cup, but he doesn't know how often he was eating.

It is not known exactly what caused Ronayne to be admitted to the hospital. He doesn't remember the events leading up to his injury but believes the doctors when they say it was probably an old injury that came back to haunt him.

He'd been in Dominican since June on what he refers to as a "drug run" and said he has a history of drug abuse.

Ronayne said he is grateful and astounded by what Ratnam did for him.

"After this period of total darkness it felt like, why me?" he said.

He said he didn't necessarily feel abandoned or frightened but said, "there was a point where I realized that I wasn't being treated and the pain was pretty steady. Any movement brought on pangs of pain."

He said he truly believes Ratnam rescued him from dying at the hospital.

"In the past, just from self neglect and drug use, I have in my life gotten down pretty low, but that period when I was just languishing in discomfort and not getting much [food] I could surely see that that's where I was going," said Ronayne. "Had it not been for Megan I probably would not have survived."  

Ronayne said his big trouble started in October when he went to a cell phone store to exchange a phone that wouldn't work even though it was new. He said he was provoked by a woman in line, which is part of a common scam against tourists, and was arrested when she claimed he had assaulted her. The charge landed him in jail for one week and saddled him with legal bills. It was that charge that had to be dropped before he could leave the country.

While still in the Dominican hospital Ratnam asked Ronayne, who was concerned that he would not be able to repay her for her kindness, to change his life and gave him a Bible.

Now that he is back in Canada, Ronayne said he is taking that request to heart.

Ronayne, who had worked on powerhouse generators in Nunavut, said he probably won't be able to go back to work for at least four months, maybe even a year.

When traveling it is important to have proper travel insurance and register with Canadians Abroad at




Read also: Police rescue 2 Canadians from kidnappers in Dominican Republic


Read more about the Canadians killed in the Dominican Republic

Go back | Date: 29 Jun 2011
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