Edmonton woman sues care facility for negligence after father's death

An Edmonton woman is suing the owners of a local long-term care centre for negligence in connection with her father's death. Warning: this story contains graphic images some readers may find upsetting.

Warning: this story contains graphic images some readers may find upsetting

Sherry Stewart is suing for negligence after the death of her father. (Sherry Stewart)

An Edmonton woman is suing the owners of a local long-term care centre for negligence in connection with her father's death.

Albert Stewart, 83, had been living at Revera Inc.'s Miller Crossing Care Centre in northeast Edmonton for just over a year when he was admitted to hospital in November 2014.

"When he got there, they diagnosed him with severe sepsis, pneumonia, urinary tract infection, bowel perforation, acute kidney injury, malnutrition, dehydration," said his daughter, Sherry Stewart.

"She [the nurse] was going to check his catheter out and she said, 'Oh, my god, this poor man is so blocked.'

"Next thing I know, I could see white coming through the tubing into his bag. And I had to ask her, and she said, 'Yeah, that's pure pus'. He was so blocked and so infected, pure pus was coming out once she unblocked the tubing."

Due to a blocked catheter, 1.5 litres of blood, pus and urine had to be drained from Albert Stewart's bladder after he arrived at hospital. (Sherry Stewart)

Hospital staff had to drain 1.5 litres of bloody urine and pus from her father's bladder because of the infection, Stewart said. 

She told CBC News her father was in a coma and never regained consciousness.

"He passed later that night," Stewart said.

She filed a complaint against the company. The province hired AF Guthrie Heathcare Consulting to investigate whether Revera violated the Protection of Persons in Care Act.

In her complaint, Stewart alleged that staff at Miller Crossing Care Centre failed to flush or irrigate her father's catheter on a daily basis, which resulted in the infection.

The investigator determined that allegation was unfounded.

Stewart also alleged that staff failed to properly monitor her father's condition when he was not feeling well. The investigator determined that allegation was founded.

'We're not in a Third-World country'

Albert Stewart was hospitalized about a year before his death for cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection. In that instance, it was alleged that Revera staff failed to assess and monitor pressure sores on his ankle.

An investigator determined staff failed to assess and monitor pressure sores on Albert Stewart's ankle. (Sherry Stewart)

The investigator determined that allegation was also founded.

"I thought, 'My god, how can this be?'" said Stewart. "We're in Canada, we're not in a Third-World country."

Alberta Health concurred with the investigator's findings but Revera was not fined or penalized, a result that is not unusual.

"As a result of the investigation, a series of directives were issued to the facility to improve its practices around wound care, the monitoring of wounds, and ensuring its catheter practices are up-to-date," Alberta Health said in a statement to CBC News.

"The facility has submitted documentation to demonstrate that it has complied with all directives, and we are currently reviewing that documentation to ensure compliance.

"PPC investigations result in directives, and facilities are required to demonstrate compliance," the Alberta Health statement said. "Fines aren't involved."

That's not good enough for Stewart.

'A mere slap on the hand'

"The recommendations that come from this investigation, now that they've been found at fault, is just a mere slap on the hand," she said.

Stewart filed a lawsuit against Revera in Court of Queen's Bench in November 2016.

"That's the only way I feel I can hurt them," she said.

"I don't think it's going to hurt them a lot. But more than anything, my understanding is that then it becomes public knowledge in the courts. And I want everybody to know what's happening and be aware of what they did to my father."

The statement of claim alleges that, "as a direct result of the said breaches and negligence of the defendant Revera, [Albert] Stewart experienced pain and suffering and loss of life." 

The photo on the left was taken shortly after Albert Stewart began living at Miller Crossing Care Centre. The photo on the right was taken just over a year later, after he was admitted to hospital. (Sherry Stewart)

'I want it out there for everybody to see'

Stewart said she hopes she can help prevent others from suffering the same sort of grief. But she's also suing on behalf of her father.

"I was there and involved. What happens to the people who are there without family?" she asked.

"My dad was a very kind and gentle man, and everybody that met him loved him," she said, sobbing. "I was his mouthpiece when he was alive, and I'm still his mouthpiece in his death.

"I want it out there for everybody to see, because then dad won't have died and suffered in vain."

Stewart is calling for changes, such as increased staffing and better monitoring, including cameras in patients' rooms.

Revera owns or operates more than 500 seniors facilities across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

In a statement to CBC News, the company said it was saddened by the loss of Mr. Stewart and extended condolences to his family and friends.

"As this matter is the subject of litigation, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on it," the company statement said. "We have a dedicated and caring staff team in place who are committed to the well-being of our residents.

"We are continually working to find ways to better serve the older adults who call Miller Crossing Care Centre their home. To this end, we conduct an annual third-party survey with our residents and families.

"In 2016, the majority of our residents and families told us that they were satisfied with the care and services the home provides."

In her statement of claim, Stewart seeks $49,000 in general damages for grief and loss of companionship, $5,000 in special damages for funeral expenses, $35,000 in punitive damages, and other special damages as may be proven at trial.

Revera has not yet filed a statement of defence.

None of Stewart's allegations have been proven in court.