Sudden deaths of two Hamilton mothers prompt investigation
When Philip Kowch left his wife's hospital bedside on Christmas night, he figured she'd be fine by morning.
"When I had to leave, I gave her money for the taxi and I figured, you know what I mean, 'I'll see you when I get home.' "
But Ashly Coville, a 26-year-old mother, died early the next morning at Hamilton General Hospital, apparently of pneumonia.
She had been admitted only hours earlier, on her second visit to the emergency department in as many days. The night before, doctors had given her saline to help her stay hydrated, prescribed her Tylenol and Gravol and then sent her home.
Now Kowch is looking for answers.
He said hopes a new investigation into his wife's death — and that of another young Hamilton mother who died suddenly in hospital in January after showing flu-like symptoms — will reveal what went wrong.
Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) has tapped an independent investigator to look what caused the deaths and how they could have been prevented.
"I think like everybody, we were struck that two young women showed up, appeared not be that sick, and then their situations deteriorated quickly," said Dr. Dick McLean, HHS's executive vice-president of medical affairs and quality.
"It's devastating for us."
In particular, Kowch hopes the inquiry will reveal why his wife was sent home from the hospital on Christmas Eve.
He said that though Coville and their seven-year-old daughter Nicole were seen quickly, he believes his wife wasn't given sufficient attention.
"As a patient, you're always treated like a product on a production line," he said.
"You walk in to a waiting room full of people. [Hospital] staff are going to be more interested in getting [patients] in and out."
McLean, however, insists the staff who treated the two women followed proper procedures.
"We're comfortable with the care we delivered and the care we continue to deliver, we just want to make sure we didn't miss anything."
The inquiry is expected to last six to eight weeks, he said, adding he doesn't believe the deaths to be related.
Kowch said that, whatever the results, he will continue to speak out about Coville — to help save lives, as well as to honour the memory of his wife.
"When she was here, I always did nothing but fight for her. And now I still have to fight for her and for her voice should be heard."