Horizon review underway after patient dies in Fredericton ER waiting room
A Fredericton man is still in shock after watching a man he describes as a senior in a wheelchair die alone in the emergency department waiting room at Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital early Tuesday morning as that he was awaiting treatment.
John Staples says the experience was a “stark and dark realization” that New Brunswick’s health care system is “so sadly broken.”
“It was a surreal moment because, I mean, I think I realized they had just died in an ER waiting room,” he said. “You are at a place where you are supposed to receive care and you end up passing away while you are waiting for that care.”
Staples, a residential support worker at a community residence in Oromocto, says he went to the emergency room with a client who needed urgent care around midnight Monday.
He noticed the patient in question, who was several meters in front of them.
“It was very obvious that they were very uncomfortable, just the way they were behaving,” he said.
“There were moans and moans and just the grimace on the face. I mean, it’s just, you know, natural signs of discomfort when someone’s sick.”
seemed to fall asleep
After at least an hour of waiting, Staples moved their customer from sitting along the wall to sitting next to the patient, respecting COVID distancing, so the customer could watch TV on the wall.
Staples and his client watched a few half-hour TV shows and the patient appeared to fall asleep, he said.
A hospital employee came to check on people.
“And when they checked on this person, they rushed in very professionally. [into the ER]so as not to cause alarm, I suppose.”
Staples looked at the patient and noticed no rising and falling of his chest to indicate he was breathing. “And I thought, ‘That person is gone. “”
That’s when the hospital worker reappeared with three people and they took the individual to the emergency room, he said.
“And while they were bringing that person back, they called ‘code blue,’ which usually signals cardiac or respiratory arrest.
But they were too late.
“So this individual sat there in the waiting room and passed away.”
No details published
Dr. John Dornan, President and CEO of Horizon Health Network, confirmed that “an unexpected patient death has occurred” in the emergency department waiting room at Dr. Everett Regional Hospital. Chalmers Tuesday.
No details about the patient or the circumstances surrounding the death have been released.
“Horizon is thoroughly reviewing all unexpected deaths that occur at our facilities to determine what happened and if further action is needed,” Dornan said in an emailed statement. “With respect to this incident, we immediately initiated the review process.
“We would like to offer our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of this individual.”
“We all have someone it could have been”
Staples was so moved by the experience that he posted about it on social media on Tuesday night.
“I think bringing this to people’s attention, I mean, it’s not new information and wait times and pressure on our healthcare system. But the fact that someone died while waiting in a waiting room is – if there’s ever a straw that breaks the camel’s back, I think it’s definitely a good opportunity for change to happen because we can’t let people die in our waiting rooms.
The Facebook post seems to have struck a chord. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had been shared over 3,000 times and received nearly 200 comments. Staples isn’t surprised.
“Well, I personally know that I have elderly parents. My father has health problems. It could have been my father who was there. Couldn’t it? And we all have someone that would have could be.
“I mean, the fact that I don’t know the name of the person who died doesn’t change the importance and seriousness of the situation.
“They are someone’s loved ones. … They are still someone who deserves the dignity and respect of being seen by a medical professional.”
Staples couldn’t say if the patient was properly triaged, but said he didn’t blame the ER staff working that night. He has great empathy for them, he says.
“They had to answer a lot of questions” and complaints from patients, including a man who rang the bell after a four-hour wait.
“The attendant was very empathetic with him, but [said], ‘You know, we’ve had people who have been here for eight hours. We’re doing everything we can,” and I believe they were.
“But it’s just, what do we do with these waiting times? Like, where do we get the doctors to come so that there aren’t people dying in the waiting rooms?
The minister reacts
Health Minister Dorothy Shephad said she was “deeply saddened and concerned” to hear of the patient’s death and expressed her sympathy to the individual’s family and friends.
She has requested a review of the “incident” from Horizon “for a full understanding,” she said in an emailed statement.
“We know the health care system is facing challenges and frontline staff are working hard,” Shephard said. “I have no doubt that every New Brunswicker and all of our healthcare workers are touched by this story. We all want to know that when we go for help it will be there and it can be delivered.
“I anticipate receiving more information from Horizon officials in the coming days as the review progresses and the Department of Health is offering its support to help in any way possible.”
Back up the system “before it’s too late”
The official opposition is calling for the minister’s resignation.
Liberal Health Critic Jean-Claude D’Amours issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon about the patient’s “very tragic death” and offered his condolences to family and friends.” involved in this sad situation”.
Citizens are asking for help and all we hear from this government are platitudes and excuses for missed deadlines.– Jean-Claude D’Amours, Liberal Health Critic
“Unfortunately, given the incompetence of the Higgs government and in particular the Minister of Health in dealing with the serious health care crisis in this province, this dire outcome was a very real possibility,” D’Amours said.
The Liberals have repeatedly demanded to see Shephard’s plan to recruit “desperately needed medical professionals,” he said.
“And ours is not a single voice: professional health care associations like the Medical Society and the Nurses Association have demanded action, citizens are asking for help, and everything we hear from this government is platitudes and excuses for missed deadlines.
D’Amours called on the province to immediately release enough of its “huge surpluses” to address hospital staffing issues.
Finance Minister Ernie Steeves originally projected a deficit of $244 million for this year, but massive federal pandemic spending and a booming economy turned it into a projected surplus of $487.8 million. of dollars.
But last month, Premier Blaine Higgs said it was too early to tell whether the province would be able to post a budget surplus as expected. The province faces $100 million higher costs due to inflation, and NB Power could take a similar hit, he said.
The prime minister “must stop complaining to the federal government, demand that his health minister resign and get down to saving our health care system before it’s too late,” D’Amours said.