New Brunswick

After more hospital complaints, Higgs gets involved in health-care system — again

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has personally waded into issues with the province's health-care system following public complaints by the family of a man who was sent home from an emergency room with a broken neck six hours after first getting seen.

Nancy Barnet says Higgs, Horizon Health CEO both called after complaints about son's treatment at hospital

A man lies in a hospital bed with a neck brace.
John Barnet broke the C7 vertebrae in his neck and broke his sternum in a motorcycle crash in Fredericton on July 26. (Submitted by Taylor Grandy)

For the second time in just over two weeks, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has personally involved himself in a high-profile incident in the province's health-care system — again after it was made public in media reports.

Dave and Nancy Barnet had demanded answers last week about why their son John was discharged from the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton just hours after breaking his neck in a motorcycle crash.

Following their public complaints, Nancy Barnet said the premier called her and her husband at their home in Pictou, N.S. 

She said Margaret Melanson, interim president and CEO of Horizon Health Network, also called and arranged to have a doctor examine John at home. He was later taken by ambulance to a hospital in Saint John.

John Barnet broke the C7 vertebra in his neck as well as his sternum, but was sent home after six hours of care in Fredericton. His parents wanted to know why he wasn't kept for at least 24 hours for observation of injuries that could have left him paralyzed.

Nancy Barnet said Higgs called twice over the weekend — first on Saturday and again on Sunday — and left voice messages, as she and her husband weren't home to answer the phone.

A man and a woman sit next to each other.
Dave and Nancy Barnet, John's parents, received two calls from New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs after they sent him a letter asking him to look into how their son was treated at the hospital in Fredericton. (Submitted by Dave Barnet)

Not up to Higgs to run health authorities

The move comes after a July 15 news conference during which Higgs, responding to the death of a man in the emergency department waiting room of the same hospital, said it wasn't up to him to run the health authorities but it was up to him "to ensure that the right people are in the positions to do so."

That incident prompted Higgs to fire the former president and CEO of Horizon Health and to replace its board of directors with a single trustee. He also replaced the province's health minister.

Horizon Health didn't answer questions about whether Higgs played a role in the followup care provided to Barnet.

In an emailed statement, Melanson said she felt it was important to personally follow up with Barnet to determine how he and his family were faring, and whether there was anything she could do to help.

Meanwhile, Nancy Barnet said they appreciate whatever the premier did. 

"As a matter of fact, I'm planning to give [Higgs] a call myself today to thank him," she said. "I do believe that without his support, things may not have moved as quickly as they did."

Barnet declined to share what Higgs said in his voice messages.

John Barnet's parents received two missed phone calls from Higgs after they wrote him a letter complaining about the treatment he received at a Fredericton hospital. (Pat Richard/CBC)

She said her son has since been discharged from hospital in Saint John and is back home in Fredericton — in pain, but recovering.

CBC News requested an interview with Higgs about his involvement in the case and is waiting for a response.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aidan Cox

Journalist

Aidan Cox is a journalist for the CBC based in Fredericton. He can be reached at aidan.cox@cbc.ca and followed on Twitter @Aidan4jrn.

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