Officials have confirmed a patient died in the waiting room of the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton this week, after a Facebook post from a witness went viral.
John Staples, who was in the waiting room on Tuesday, described the scene as a “stark and somber realization that our healthcare system is so sadly broken.”
Global News spoke to Staples, who confirmed what he witnessed.
He said in an interview that he arrived at the ER at around midnight, and the waiting room was fairly full. Staples said he saw a person who appeared to be in physical discomfort sitting in a wheelchair.
An hour had passed before a nurse emerged to check on that particular patient. That’s when Staples noticed he wasn’t breathing.
“Then three more people came out and they wheeled the individual back and called the code blue and it was confirmed that the individual had passed,” he said.
He said the whole thing showed him just how dire the health-care situation is.
“They say we have free health care. It seems that it is coming at the cost of people’s lives.”
Staples said he could tell the nurses and staff were stressed and stretched very thin and believes those who were there that night did everything they could to save the person’s life.
“The health-care system is stretched, they were very stretched, and I can’t even imagine the stress that they would have losing a patient in their waiting room,” he said.
Horizon Health Network confirmed that an individual did die unexpectedly in the waiting room at the hospital.
The regional health authority said it is investigating the incident.
“Horizon thoroughly reviews any unexpected deaths that occur in our facilities to determine what took place and whether further action is required,” said Horizon CEO Dr. John Dornan in an emailed statement.
“As it relates to this incident, we immediately started the review process. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to this individual’s family and loved ones.
Shared to Facebook
The death was confirmed by the health authority only after Staples had taken to social media to post what he witnessed.
“After more than an hour later (having watched 2 half-hour shows on the waiting room TV), an ER staff came out to check on the individual. When the ER staff member calmly rushed back to the ER area, I looked over at the individual and noticed no rise-and-fall of breathing,” he wrote in the post.
“I was there to see a fellow New Brunswicker pass away in a hospital waiting room,” he said.
In a statement, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said she was “deeply saddened and concerned” and had spoken to Dornan from Horizon Health to request the review.
“We know the health-care system is facing challenges and that frontline staff are working hard. I have no doubt that every New Brunswicker and all of our health care workers are affected by this story. We all want to know that when we go for help it will be there, and that it can be provided,” she said.
“I anticipate receiving more information from Horizon officials in the coming days as the review progresses and the Department of Health offers our support to help in any way we can.”
Health-care worker shortage
The province’s health care system has been dealing with staffing issues, even before the arrival of COVID-19.
It faces significant recruitment and retention issues only exacerbated by the strain of the pandemic — both with infected staff and more patients requiring hospitalization.
Last weekend, five hospitals were either forced to close emergency departments or reduce their hours amid these staffing issues.