A Canadian has died after waiting seven hours in the emergency room, with her family blaming complications and shortcomings in the country’s health system as the cause of the death.
“I want to express my deepest condolences to the family of the deceased patient at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre,” Canadian Health and Welfare Minister Michelle Thompson wrote in a statement released Monday. “It’s a tragic loss, and my heart goes out to them. I understand they want answers.”
“The Nova Scotia Department of Health has launched an investigation, known as a quality review, into this case to determine what happened, how we can do better, and what we can do. to prevent this from happening in the future.”
Allison Holthoff, 37, went to hospital after complaining that she was not feeling well on New Years Eve. She told her family that she had pain in her abdomen which continued to increase over time.
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Holthoff’s husband, Gunter, took her to hospital as her condition worsened. She waited seven hours for someone to take care of her, but she ended up dying. Gunter told reporters on Monday that he still does not know the cause of his wife’s death.
“Unfortunately, I feel like she was overlooked, and it was to a point where they couldn’t ignore us anymore,” Gunter said at a press conference. “It was a terrible situation for my wife, for my children and for a lot of people in the community. I’m just lost.”
Gunter told reporters his wife fell off her horse in September 2022 and complained of pain in the following months. He said it had been “difficult times” for his wife.
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He found her lying in the hallway on New Year’s Eve after trying to ease the pain by taking a bath.
The couple waited in a temporary waiting room in the hospital lobby after completing triage at around 11:20 a.m. Holthoff did not enter an exam room until 3 p.m., her pain escalating over time.
Medical staff took blood and urine samples during the seven-hour wait, with a nurse asking near the end if Holthoff was “still like this” upon seeing his extreme pain. Holthoff began screaming in pain around 6 p.m. as medical staff prepared her for an X-ray.
Doctors and nurses resuscitated Holthoff three times before determining they had a “[1%] chance to keep her alive” and will not proceed with the operation. A doctor told Gunter that his wife had suffered internal bleeding but could not determine the cause.
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Nova Scotia House of Assembly member Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin moderated the press conference and outlined a seven-point plan to remedy the situation, CTV News reported.
In a letter to Thompson, Smith-McCrossin urged emergency health services to place “a dedicated medical professional in the temporary/makeshift waiting room” to “monitor and provide ongoing medical assessment of those waiting to see the emergency doctor”.
She also suggested renovations to the main emergency room, a dedicated counselor to help families of deceased patients, improve emergency room staffing levels and publicly chart emergency room wait times, among other measures.
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Smith-McCrossin said Gunter was “a hero” for the way he handled his wife’s passing. Holthoff’s family buried her on Saturday.