HSC hallway death investigation to be made public: premier
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An investigation into the recent death of a patient who had been waiting in a Winnipeg emergency room hallway will be made public, the Manitoba premier says.
Few details about the Health Sciences Centre event Feb. 27 have been released.
On Tuesday, Shared Health stated — in response to Free Press inquiries — the “potential critical incident” happened within a one-hour window Monday night.
Asked Wednesday whether a critical incident investigation has yet begun, Shared Health said an initial review is not yet complete.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family for the loss of their loved one. Manitobans should know that this matter remains under investigation, and I think it would be inappropriate to comment on this issue further,” Premier Heather Stefanson said during the opening spring session of the legislative assembly.
In response to questions from Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew, Stefanson said the results would be shared publicly.
Although circumstances surrounding the death remain under wraps, the fact the patient was waiting in an ER hallway is being decried as a systemic problem.
Health Minister Audrey Gordon didn’t directly answer questions about the case or overflowing emergency departments during an unrelated news conference.
When asked about the man’s death, and Manitoba nurses’ repeated public concerns about unsafe working conditions in overloaded ERs, Gordon said she wanted to thank the nurses.
“You’re valued, you’re appreciated, and our government is responding in meaningful and proactive ways,” the minister said.
She didn’t answer a question about a potential failure in ER monitoring requirements that were implemented in Manitoba in the wake of the 2008 death of Brian Sinclair.
“I cannot speak to the specifics of any one case, due to protection of privacy legislation, but I will say an investigation is underway and I look forward to receiving the results,” Gordon said.
At the conclusion of the news conference, when pressed on ER capacity issues versus patient flow, Gordon didn’t answer and walked away.
Previously, the Tory health minister said she’d had “open and honest” conversations with nurses from HSC, Grace and St. Boniface hospitals.
“They shared with me what they thought we needed to do as a government, and we responded with the health human resource action plan,” she said.
“We recognize the pressures on the system, not just at HSC, but at the community level and at our other acute care facilities, and we are responding.”
Kinew raised the issue in question period later in the day. He asked Stefanson what immediate steps she would take to ensure accountability and to ensure Manitobans get appropriate emergency health care.
He spoke to reporters about the “very concerning” death of a patient in the ER hallway and offered his condolences to the man’s friends and family: “We do know that we have an issue in our emergency rooms across Manitoba.”
Kinew said an NDP government would work on “resetting the relationship” between the province and health-care workers, but didn’t offer specifics on improving hospital capacity, saying it starts with workers not feeling disrespected or burnt-out.
“I think that Manitobans expect when they show up at an ER that they are going to get the health care that they need. It’s that simple: if you show up at an ER, you should be cared for.”
A patient’s death in a hallway points to a “systemic issue” the health system has already been warned about, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said. He has previously spoken publicly about his own six-hour wait in an ER hallway at St. B.
“I keep hearing from people across Manitoba, in Winnipeg, in rural Manitoba, in the North, they’re praying that they don’t get sick and that they don’t have to go to a hospital because they don’t think they’re going to be safe there.”
Manitoba Health Coalition director Thomas Linner said health-care workers have repeatedly told him they are scared of someone dying on their watch in a similar manner.
“The emergency room is the canary in the coal mine in this situation,” he said. “We’ll learn more about the circumstances; I just really feel for the family.”
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.