'Sometimes things get so crazy,' former remand centre nurse testifies at Errol Greene inquest
Inquest hears nurses sometimes work alone and have no access to doctors after hours or on weekends
A former Winnipeg Remand Centre nurse says at times she worked alone and had no access to a doctor after hours or on the weekend.
"You have to prioritize in order to get things done and that means things get left behind," testified Roberta Brotherston, who did Errol Greene's intake assessment the day before he died in custody after having two seizures in 2016.
Brotherston was a witness on the fourth day of an inquest into Greene's death that was called by the chief medical officer to determine the circumstances and events leading up to the death and what, if anything, can be done to prevent similar deaths.
It was her sixth nursing shift at the remand on April 30, when Brotherston completed Greene's health assessment form.
"I don't remember anything about this shift," she testified. The nurse worked at the remand centre for 18 months in total.
Brotherston confirmed her handwriting to the inquest and read out what she noted about Greene's health.
She testified she wrote he had a seizure condition and was prescribed valproic acid, which is a medication used to prevent seizures.
Greene's widow, Rochelle Pranteau, testified on Monday that he told her over the phone he had not been given his medication, despite asking for it.
Inquest lawyers questioned if Brotherston remembered Greene asking for his medication or if his request would be written down in his file.
"I wouldn't write 'an inmate needs their medication,'" she testified. "That's pretty par for the course."
Brotherston testified that because she was new on the job, she didn't have access yet to DPIN — the Drug Program Information Network, an online database that connects pharmacies and Manitoba Health, which nurses must use to confirm a prescription before dispensing medication.
Brotherston testified she filled out a specific form, which she taped to the front of Greene's file, requesting another nurse check the DPIN.
Brotherston said nurses can give out medication without the go-ahead from a doctor once it is confirmed by DPIN. She said the doctor would sign off on it later.
That was her only interaction with Greene and she was not on shift when he died the next day.
'I'm not surprised if things do get missed'
Brotherston, who has been a nurse for 31 years, told the court she has spent the majority of her career working at nursing stations on remote First Nations.
She testified that there is always a doctor available for consultation by phone, which wasn't the case at the remand centre.
The inquest heard a doctor is at the remand centre for one hour a day, Monday to Friday.
Paula Ewen, who has been working at the remand centre for six years, testified that staffing levels are not always optimal and sometimes she works alone.
"I'm not surprised if things do get missed," she said.
She testified she uses the personal connections she's made over her 34-year career to call in favours with doctors for a medical consult.
Emergency department doctors she's consulted with will request that nurses send the inmates to the hospital, since they aren't comfortable doing phone consultations, said Ewen, who works overnights and weekends.
Both women told the inquest it would be beneficial to have a doctor available 24/7 for phone consults.
Ewen did Greene's intoxication intake assessment because he was brought in for drinking alcohol, which breached a bail condition for a mischief charge from March.
The nurses testified that they must drop everything they're doing to assess an intoxicated inmate to determine if they are fit to be admitted to the remand centre.
"Sometimes things get so crazy," testified Brotherston.
Brotherston also told the court nurses are overworked, especially when on shift alone.
On Friday, the inquest will hear from Greene's cellmate.
- Initially, CBC News reported that Paula Ewen said remand doctors told her to send inmates to hospital because they weren't comfortable with phone consultations. In fact, she was speaking about emergency department doctors.Feb 02, 2018 10:15 AM CT