A Canadian woman died after waiting seven hours in the emergency room, with complications and deficiencies blamed by her family the country’s health system for death.
“I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the family of the patient who passed away at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre.” Canadian Minister of Health and Wellness Michelle Thompson wrote in a statement released Monday. “This is a tragic loss and my heart goes out to her. I understand you want answers.
“Nova Scotia Health has launched an investigation into this case, known as a quality review, to determine what happened, how we can make it better, and what we can do to prevent it from happening in the future.”
Allison Holthoff, 37, went to the hospital after complaining on New Year’s Eve that she wasn’t feeling well. She told her family that she had stomach pains that got worse over time.
Holthoff’s husband Gunter took her to the hospital when her condition worsened. She waited seven hours for someone to take care of her, but she ended up dying. Gunter told reporters Monday that he still does not know the cause of his wife’s death.
“Unfortunately, I feel like she was neglected and it got to a point where they couldn’t ignore us anymore,” Gunter said at a news conference. “It was a terrible situation for my wife, my children and many people in the community. I’m just lost.”
Gunter told reporters his wife fell from her horse in September and complained of pain in the months that followed. He said it was “tough times” for his wife.
He found her lying in the hallway on New Year’s Eve after trying to relieve the pain with a bath.
The couple waited in a makeshift waiting room in the hospital foyer around 11:20 am after the triage was completed. Holthoff did not enter the examination room until 3:00 p.m., with her pain increasing as the hours went by.
Medical staff took blood and urine samples throughout the seven-hour wait, and a nurse near the end asked if Holthoff was “always like this” upon seeing her extreme pain. Holthoff began screaming in pain around 6 p.m. as medical staff were preparing her for an X-ray.
Doctors and nurses resuscitated Holthoff three times before realizing she had a “[1%] chance of keeping her alive” and would not undergo surgery. A doctor told Gunter that his wife was suffering from internal bleeding but could not determine the cause.
Nova Scotia MP Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin moderated the press conference and outlined a seven-point plan to deal with the situation, CTV News reported.
In a letter to ThompsonSmith-McCrossin urged emergency health services to place “a dedicated health professional in the temporary/makeshift waiting room” to “monitor and provide ongoing medical assessment to individuals waiting to see the doctor in the emergency department.”
She also proposed renovations to the main ER, a dedicated counselor to support families of deceased patients, improved ER staffing, and public listing of ER wait times, among other things.
Smith-McCrossin said Gunter was “a hero” for dealing with his wife’s death. Holthoff’s family buried her on Saturday.