Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital lobby

Winston Enman sat in the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital lobby for 10 or 15 minutes waiting for a taxi. (CBC)

A New Brunswick family is angry that an elderly relative with dementia was able to slip out of a Fredericton hospital Tuesday afternoon and take a taxi to his stepdaughter's home 80 kilometres away.

Winston Enman was wearing only his pyjama top, dress pants and slippers when he left his third-floor room at Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, and took a taxi to his stepdaughter Debbie Thompson's home in McAdam.

Enman's other stepdaughter, Wendy McIver, says the temperature was –25 C that day and there could have been a tragedy.

"If he hadn't stopped and kept going through those doors and was missing for an hour and a half, he would have been frozen. It could have been a very, very bad outcome," said McIver.

McIver says the family is also upset because no one from the hospital called them to report that Enman was missing.

"We notified them that he was standing in our doorway," said McIver.

"I don't know where the employees were because his room was right across from the desk. We don't know how he slipped out. We gather he must just have followed visitors right down to the lobby," said McIver.

A stranger had helped Enman call the taxi cab in the lobby of the hospital, says McIver.

Horizon to install patient wandering system

Hospital security video shows he was sitting in the lobby for 10 to 15 minutes waiting for the taxi and that should have enough time to find him before he left the hospital, she says.

The family told the hospital Enman had dementia and would run if given the chance.

However, McIver says the hospital told them he was a good, quiet patient who had shown no signs of wanting to leave.

In a statement issued late Friday afternoon, the Horizon Health Network says it "empathizes" with Enman's family and regrets the "distress" the incident caused them and Enman.

"Throughout Horizon’s facilities, we have established protocols in place.  In this particular case, a missing patient response procedure was initiated and followed precisely," said Nicole Tupper, executive director of the Fredericton area.

"We will continue to follow our procedures," she said.

Horizon is also working with the fire marshal's office to install a patient wandering system for selected units, Tupper added. She wasn't more specific about the details about the new system.

Enman had been taken to Everett Chalmers hospital about a month ago because of pain, says McIver. Since the incident, he has been transferred to the Wauklehegan Manor in McAdam where he is closely monitored.