Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Patient's death sparks suit

Woman died after being discharged

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Dana Brenan holds a photo of her mother, Heather Brenan, who died after being sent home from hospital.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Dana Brenan holds a photo of her mother, Heather Brenan, who died after being sent home from hospital. Photo Store

A woman is suing the health-care system over treatment of her mother, who was sent home from hospital in a taxi late one January night, collapsed on her doorstep and later died.

The statement of claim by Dana Brenan said the death of 68-year-old Heather Brenan in January 2012 was the result of negligence on the part of the health-care providers.

She is suing the hospital, the health authority and medical staff involved.

Following her death, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority put in place emergency guidelines for the safe discharge of patients and Manitoba's chief medical examiner ordered an inquest.

The inquest was called, in part, to examine if a lack of acute-care beds contributed to Brenan being sent home prematurely from Seven Oaks General Hospital and whether acute-care beds were taken up by long-term patients waiting for placement in care homes. It will also examine the hospital's policy regarding the discharge of patients at night, particularly those who are elderly, frail or live alone.

No date has been set for the inquest, said Dana Brenan, whose lawsuit was filed Friday.

"...The medical and nursing personnel at the hospital who were involved with Heather were all jointly and severally negligent in the medical treatment of Heather and are each responsible for her death and the resulting damages and that the hospital is vicariously liable for said negligence," the lawsuit alleges.

It names four doctors involved in her case -- Mark Schneider, Stanley Whyte, Paul Dowhanik and Sheldon Swirsky -- and four unidentified nurses. The WRHA hasn't filed a statement of defence and couldn't comment Monday.

Brenan had multiple medical problems and had complained of weakness, difficulty swallowing, pain when attempting to eat solid food and continuous weight loss since December 2011.

On Jan. 24, 2012, just after 2 p.m., she was taken by a friend to the emergency department of the northwest Winnipeg hospital.

Brenan was kept in the hospital from Jan. 24 to 27 on a gurney in the emergency room. She was never admitted. She underwent numerous tests and was assessed by occupational therapy, social work and home care regarding a plan for when she was medically stable for discharge.

On Jan. 24, Brenan had gone for a gastroscopy in which a long, flexible tube is passed through the mouth and back of the throat into the upper digestive tract to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach and the first portion of the small intestine.

She was too weak for the procedure and the doctor sent her to Seven Oaks General Hospital to be admitted for more tests.

Three days later, she returned to Victoria General Hospital to undergo the gastroscopy, but her oxygen levels were so low the procedure had to be stopped.

She was sent back to Seven Oaks for further testing but instead was put on a gurney. That evening, another doctor looked at her chart, saw her oxygen levels had improved and discharged her without examining her.

A nurse sent her home in a cab without any house keys and left a message for a friend of Brenan's, saying the patient was being discharged.

Brenan, who lived alone, arrived in a cab and, using a walker, got as far as the front doorway before she collapsed.

An ambulance was called and Brenan was taken back to the ER just after midnight Jan. 28, 2012. Although her pulse was restored, Brenan was found to be non-responsive. She was transferred to the intensive-care unit and her condition deteriorated. She died just before noon the same day.

The cause of death was a bilateral pulmonary embolism from one of several blood clots in her calf due to deep vein thrombosis of the lower legs.

Her only child, Dana, was finishing her PhD dissertation in the United Kingdom when she got the news her mom was dead. She is suing for unspecified damages including legal, funeral and burial expenses.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2013 A6

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