Montreal

Elderly woman dies alone in problematic isolation room at Lakeshore General ER

A woman in her 80s died at Lakeshore General Hospital last month after being left unattended for at least three hours. Staff at the hospital say they've been warning for weeks about the problem.

'If visibility had been better, perhaps she wouldn't have died,' source tells CBC

The local health agency has launched an investigation into the death of an 80-year-old woman at the Lakeshore General Hospital in Pointe-Claire. (CBC)

A woman in her 80s was found dead in a negative pressure room last month in the ER at the Lakeshore General Hospital in Pointe-Claire, CBC News has learned.

And this, despite months of warnings to managers that the room in question was a problem.

CBC News spoke to two sources who work at the hospital who didn't want to be named for fear of reprisal.

They said the woman died in a section of the ER equipped with three negative pressure rooms for COVID-19 or suspected COVID patients.

"The problem is that visibility — the ability for staff to see the patients from afar — is literally non-existent," one source told CBC in an email.

Both sources said during the first wave of the pandemic these rooms were equipped with closed-circuit cameras that allowed nursing staff to keep close tabs on patients. They said the cameras were removed because, staff were told, it wasn't legal to monitor patients in this way.

The sources said head nurses had been warned about the problem for weeks.

"Despite warnings in several meetings that visibility was a severe issue and coverage of this section when the nurse went on break was also virtually impossible, the managers did nothing," the source said.

The sources believe the woman's death might have been prevented if the problem had been addressed.

"Now, what we worried would happen, has happened," the source said. 

"It's definitely upsetting for the staff, especially as we all knew this was coming," the second source said.

Patient found 'dead and ice cold' on floor

According to the sources, the patient in question was admitted to the hospital on Friday, Feb. 26 at around 10 p.m., with respiratory distress.

The woman was placed in one of the negative pressure rooms because she was considered a "rule-out-COVID" patient — a patient who might have COVID and is therefore kept in isolation until that's verified. She was given oxygen to help her breathe.

According to the first source, the woman was found "dead and ice cold" on the floor of her room at 3 a.m. Saturday morning.

"It is unclear how long she was on the floor, dead, because nobody could see her," the source said.

"The evening nurse who finished at midnight had good charting and relayed to the night nurse that the patient needed to be closely watched," the second source said.

"This was not done and if she could have at least been seen by staff, i.e. if visibility had been better, perhaps she wouldn't have died," the second source continued.

"Somehow, even with both side rails up, the patient managed to get herself out of bed, remove her oxygen and end up on the floor with no one being aware for some time."

Both sources said head nurses and managers were well aware of the problem and had been warned about the visibility issue several times in recent weeks.

"It's absolutely tragic and something that we, the staff, do not want to ever happen again," the second source said.

Investigation underway

In an email, a spokesperson for the West Island health agency, the CIUSSS de l'Ouest de l'Île de Montréal, confirmed an internal investigation has been launched into the death.

The spokesperson said the agency couldn't comment further because of confidentiality.

A spokesperson for the Quebec coroner's office said they are trying to verify if an investigation is underway.

The union representing nurses at Lakeshore General Hospital said it wasn't familiar with the case.


If you know more about this incident and would like to reach out to CBC News, please send an email to one of the authors. Click on their names for their email addresses. 

Corrections

  • A spokesperson for the Quebec coroner's office previously said the death is under investigation. In fact, the office is trying to verify if an investigation is underway.
    Mar 09, 2021 8:28 AM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal. You can reach him by email at stephen.j.rukavina@cbc.ca

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