A 70-year-old Kamloops woman died while waiting for care in Royal Inland Hospital’s emergency room early Wednesday morning.
One of the woman’s daughters, Amanda Young, said her sister took her mother to the hospital at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday, complaining of stomach pains.
“They did her vitals and everything, and they found she had some low potassium levels,” Young said.
“At 2 a.m. or so, my sister said my mom kind of seemed like she checked her pulse a bit — because she was doing that because they weren’t getting in. And she said she didn’t feel a pulse, and she was looking at her and she just looked like she was not there. And so she starting yelling for help, and then they tried to resuscitate her with no success. She was already gone.”
Another witness described the scene to NL News as “very upsetting” to the dozens of other people in the waiting room, as well as the staff who were “slammed last night.”
Young lives in Calgary and wasn’t in Kamloops at the time, but she was concerned that her mother was triaged for six hours before her passing.
“My sister said it was just full. There was no help. I don’t really know what the waiting room looked like, I didn’t actually ask her about that part. But six hours, for an older, elderly person. And (my sister) said with everything happening right now in the hospital, they just triaged her. And with what her symptoms were, it was just sit and wait,” she said.
“It’s hard. I don’t want to blame anybody, because obviously, these things happen to people. And that’s not really what it’s about for us right now anyways. It’s just about obviously grieving our mother. Just in general, we’re also hoping and praying this doesn’t happen to someone else.”
Royal Inland Hospital has been suffering from an acute nursing shortage, especially in the ER where approximately two-thirds of staff have reportedly quit or transferred out because of burnout exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Wednesday, 13 of 17 intensive care unit beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients.
An ER physician said last week that the hospital is seeing its worst influx of COVID-19 patients “by far” during the pandemic, which is also absorbing staffing resources that could have been used elsewhere.
In a response to a request for comment, Interior Health told NL News that it can’t speak to specific cases because of privacy concerns, but that staff review all unexpected deaths that occur in hospitals to determine what happened.
“We know these are very difficult situations for all those who are impacted and our thoughts are with those impacted. Our priority at Royal Inland Hospital is to ensure emergency department patients are triaged and seen in a timely fashion, and that they receive care based on the urgency of their needs,” the statement said.
– with files from Colton Davies