Hospital staffing levels among questions in wake of teen death

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The death of an otherwise healthy 14-year-old girl, days after being admitted to hospital, may have been avoided if the Manitoba health-care system was operating at full capacity, according to a source with knowledge of Talina Rampersad-Husack’s case.

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The death of an otherwise healthy 14-year-old girl, days after being admitted to hospital, may have been avoided if the Manitoba health-care system was operating at full capacity, according to a source with knowledge of Talina Rampersad-Husack’s case.

“Definitely it would have helped if there were more staff, for sure,” said the source who contacted the Free Press. They agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from their employer.

“There’s more bodies; there’s more eyes. You have more help. You’re not kind of being pulled in so many different directions.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Talina Rampersad Husock died in the downtown Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre Children’s Hospital intensive care unit July 17.

Talina died in the downtown Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre Children’s Hospital intensive care unit July 17. Her funeral was Sunday.

The girl’s grieving family has been told an autopsy report could take up to a year, but they’re actively seeking answers now about her care in hospital.

Critics say the family is right to expect timely information — and the fact they aren’t getting it is a sign of a broken system.

“How does a healthy 14-year-old girl, daughter, sister, granddaughter be admitted to a hospital and die within days?” said NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara.

“The fact that the answer to that question isn’t available and that there are many unanswered questions is unacceptable,” said Asagwara, who acknowledged being a family friend.

Talina was having trouble breathing when taken to urgent care at Victoria General Hospital early July 13. She was transferred by stretcher service to Children’s Hospital later that day.

She was admitted and received supplemental oxygen. Her condition worsened. On July 17, she was transferred to the pediatric ICU and died that day.

The source said more diagnostic procedures should have been performed on the girl who was diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs, and she should’ve been transferred to the ICU sooner.

“There’s a lot of us at work that are not doing OK with this,” the source said. “This is not why we do the job. We know it’s part of the job but it’s never easy to lose a child — especially when they are a previously healthy 14-year-old.”

The source, who hasn’t spoken out publicly before, explained why they felt compelled to do so now: “I don’t think the general public realizes how bad it is. They need to know what we’re going through and what’s happening in the hospital.”

When asked to comment Thursday, a spokesman for Shared Health said all details related to the patient’s case are being reviewed.

So far, a critical incident — when serious harm has come to a patient in the health-care system that cannot be attributed to the underlying health condition or inherent risk in the health services provided — has not been declared, he said.

An investigation is required prior to such a declaration, the spokesman said.

Privacy laws prevent Shared Health from speaking to the specifics of a patient’s care.

“Generally speaking, HSC Children’s has experienced increased levels of patient traffic in its emergency department for the past several months. Inpatient units, including the pediatric intensive care unit, has experienced increased patient numbers since the spring. Site and program leaders have been actively reassessing and prioritizing resources across units to ensure patient care needs of all children are met,” the spokesman said in an email.

Without identifying her by name, Shared Health expressed condolences to Talina’s family and friends for their loss.

The teen is remembered for her warmth, kindness and making everyone feel welcome and included, said Asagwara, recalling anecdotes shared at Talina’s funeral.

“She was brilliant… just super smart, thoughtful and sweet. Her teachers loved her, so did her peers and, obviously, her family and community members.”

Talina’s death is “shining a light” on a staffing crisis that’s erupting after the province left it to fester for too long, said the NDP health critic and nurse.

“No parent, no family should question whether or not their healthy child going to the hospital is going to be admitted and be able to receive the care that they need in order to get well and have the best chance at a good outcome.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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