ABBOTSFORD – For the second time in a month, a patient who attended the Abbotsford Regional Hospital died within hours of being sent away — a spate of fatalities that has heartbroken family members raising tough questions about the quality of care their loved ones received in their final hours.
First it was 3-year-old Indo-Canadian girl Nimrat Gill and the latest incident involved 56-year-old Mary Louise Murphy, who is said to have checked into the hospital’s emergency ward overnight on Jan. 30.
Her adoptive son Andrew Grimeau said his mother waited hours to see a doctor, who administered a shot of morphine to ease her muscle spasms before sending her home.
“Where is there any faith in the medical system?” Grimeau told CTV Vancouver. “When symptoms and everything started to get worse … did she have anywhere to call? I don’t feel so.”
This latest case comes on the heels of the death of toddler Nimrat Gill. Her parents rushed her to the same emergency room on Feb. 6 after she was suffering from cough and other cold symptoms, where they say they were told to take their daughter home and treat her with Tylenol and Advil.
“We were satisfied if they check her and they say she’s okay,” Balraj said. “They say she doesn’t have any infection or anything, it’s only just a regular cold.”
That evening, Nimrat began vomiting. Early the next morning, she was taken back to the hospital.
Balraj told CTV Vancouver her daughter was given an X-ray and blood tests on the second visit. She said she noticed Nimrat was becoming increasingly unresponsive. She claims a doctor was dismissive of her concerns, and when she noticed Nimrat’s skin begin to take on a bluish hue, she says that no one seemed perturbed.
“She was saying to me, ‘Let’s go home, mama. Let’s go home,’” Balraj said. “Within five hours, she was gone.”
Two days after Nimrat’s death, Balraj said their family doctor received X-rays confirming that the child had a severe case of pneumonia that caused further infections.
“What I’m hoping is that these are two very isolated incidents that happen to be temporally related,” said Dr. Roy Morton, vice-president of medicine for Fraser Health. “That’s what our further investigation will try to sort through to determine.”
And now the B.C. Nurses’ Union have weighed in, saying a chronic nurse shortage has staff of the Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s emergency room running ragged — and is costing taxpayers as Fraser Health fills the gap with out-of-province contract staff.
Gayle Duteil, president of the union, says the department has had more than 30 vacancies — about a third of its roster — for almost two years. She says the shortfall is leaving the remaining nurses overworked and stressed, leading to rapid turnover of highly trained emergency nurses.
“These nurses do not grow on trees, and yet they are coming in the front door and leaving through the back door,” Duteil said.
Duteil said the staffing situation is also affecting patient care, with the department running at more than 120 per cent patient capacity.
“It was shocking. It reminded me of a war zone,” Duteil said of a recent visit to the department. “There were three patients behind a curtain meant for one.”