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Coroner’s inquest launched for N.B. patient who died in hospital ER waiting room

Click to play video: 'Review conducted after Fredericton hospital ER death leaves many unanswered questions'
Review conducted after Fredericton hospital ER death leaves many unanswered questions
The death of a patient at a Fredericton hospital last July put a spotlight on the health-care crisis in New Brunswick. Several recommendations were made to Horizon Health to prevent other incidents. Nathalie Sturgeon has more on what they were and what progress has been made. – Mar 1, 2023

A coroner’s inquest will be held into the death of a patient at the emergency department waiting room of a Fredericton hospital in July 2022.

Donald Darrell Mesheau  died in the waiting room at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital on July 12, 2022.

The inquest has been scheduled for May 29 to June 2 at the University of New Brunswick Law School.

“The presiding coroner and a jury will publicly hear evidence from witnesses to determine the facts surrounding Mesheau’s death,” the province’s justice and public safety department said in a news release.

“The jury will have an opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances.”

The New Brunswick Coroner Service does not make any finding of legal responsibility.

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In July 2022, a witness who was in the ER on the night of Mesheau’s death, told Global News he saw a person who appeared to be in physical discomfort sitting in a wheelchair.

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An hour had passed before a nurse emerged to check on that particular patient. That’s when the witness, John 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,” Staples said at the time.

Click to play video: 'Premier Blaine Higgs replaces N.B. health minister after patient dies in ER'
Premier Blaine Higgs replaces N.B. health minister after patient dies in ER

Mesheau’s death prompted a review by the health authority, Horizon Health Network.

During the quality process review, it was determined that “the lack of consistent patient monitoring and the inability to meet standards in the emergency department waiting room decreases the likelihood for early recognition in a patient health decline.”

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Emails from Horizon Health Network, later obtained by Global News, indicated the licensed practical nurse (LPN) assigned to the waiting area was also assigned to the department and “couldn’t commit to the regular checks.”

The patient’s death would result in Premier Blaine Higgs replacing then-health minister Dorothy Shephard, and firing the boards of both regional health authorities and Horizon Health Network’s CEO.

In August 2022, a month after the death, the hospital unveiled “wait room monitors” who would commit to checking on patients in the time it takes them to be triaged and to be seen by a physician.

— with files from Global News’ Nathalie Sturgeon

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