04/02/2015 10:08 EDT | Updated 06/02/2015 05:59 EDT

Sick Ontario senior Robert Skingley stuck in U.S. hospital

An Ontario family is furious after a sick relative has been stuck in the United States for weeks because a hospital bed is not available near his home in Canada.

Robert Skingley, 77, has been hospitalized in South Carolina for around three weeks being treated for meningitis, encephalitis and the West Nile virus.

Skingley, a Kincardine, Ont., resident who spends his winters in the U.S., has travel insurance to pay for his treatment in the U.S., but his family has been trying for weeks to have him moved to a hospital at home.

Jessica Cormier, Skingley's granddaughter, said an Ontario doctor must agree to treat him and have a hospital bed available.

At one point, she said, a hospital near Kincardine had an intensive care unit bed available, but Skingley's condition improved, so he only needed a regular bed.

"So they cancelled out the ICU bed and told us now we have to go to a smaller hospital closer to his area and the search began all over again," she said.

She's expanding her search to look for beds in Toronto and London, but hasn't had any luck.

"I'm mostly concerned he isn't with us, because regardless of what happens, you're more likely to pull through if you have your family support with you," Cormier said.

"If he was home, we could drive him to any hospital we like and they would have to admit him, but because he's in another country, it's almost as if he's losing his rights as a Canadian citizen," she said.

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the lack of hospital beds appears to be the issue.

"Hospitals are … prohibited from refusing, unless they don't have the capacity to receive, but they cannot refuse to receive an individual based on geography," he said.

Unfortunately, Cormier said, Skingley is too sick to fly at the moment even if a bed opens up. Several members of her family have flown to South Carolina to be by his side, while she's keeping up hope his condition will improve and a bed will open up.