New Brunswick

Horizon putting unfair burden on mothers by asking them to call, lawyer says

The health authority is asking patients who fit the pattern of strong and sustained contractions associated with a low fetal heart beat requiring a C-section to call their health care provider and RCMP. But a lawyer is questioning that approach.

Moncton nurse fired last week for allegedly inducing labour without consent

RCMP are investigating a Moncton Hospital nurse fired last week for alleged misuse of labour-inducing drug Oxytocin. (CBC)

Horizon Health is asking any patients with concerns of alleged misuse of a labour-inducing drug to call its patient representative services.

But a lawyer says that puts an unfair burden on mothers.

Horizon has already fielded calls from more than 40 concerned mothers after a nurse in Moncton was fired last week following allegations that labour was induced without consent.

An internal investigation revealed "strong evidence" the nurse administered Oxytocin, which caused two patients to require an urgent caesarean section. RCMP are investigating at the request of Horizon Health. 

Halifax lawyer John McKiggan has been retained by the two mothers Moncton Hospital has confirmed were affected by the nurse's actions.

"Most of these moms would have no idea if the nurse that has been accused of these acts was involved in their labour and delivery. So why should it … be placed on the moms to take that step?" McKiggan said.

"The hospital has the charts. The hospital knows every labour and delivery that this nurse worked on."

Moncton Hospital chief of staff Dr. Ken Gillespie released a video statement asking patients with labour and delivery concerns to contact Horizon Health and RCMP. (Horizon Health Network)

The health authority released a statement Friday saying patients who have experienced strong and sustained contractions "associated with a low fetal heart beat typically requiring a C-section" should call with concerns and ask to speak to a health-care provider.

Dr. Ken Gillespie, Moncton Hospital's chief of staff and also an obstetrician at the hospital, released a video statement Friday encouraging concerned patients to contact the RCMP or to give Horizon permission to do so on their behalf.

 "We sincerely empathize with everyone that is affected by this situation. It has been a difficult time for patients, staff and our entire community," Gillespie said.

The health authority is asking patients and families to call 1-844-225-0220 to discuss any labour and delivery concerns.

Potential for class-action lawsuit

McKiggan said calls have been received from other mothers who may have been impacted during their labour and delivery at the hospital.

He and his co-counsel are evaluating each call and looking at the facts of each case to determine who may have been impacted.

They will then decide what is the best course of legal action, whether that be a class-action suit on behalf of each mother and child impacted, or individual cases.

A lawyer says Horizon Health has placed the burden on mothers who don't know if the fired nurse was involved in their delivery by asking them to call. (CBC)

McKiggan said most of the women contacting him have given birth within the last year, but he said the nurse who was fired had worked at the Moncton Hospital for more than a decade.

"My concern is that the hospital is going to have to do an investigation now and to review every chart for every delivery that she [the nurse] was involved in," McKiggan said.

CBC News asked Horizon Health to confirm how long the nurse was employed at the hospital, but it refused.

"Due to the ongoing RCMP investigation Horizon will not be providing any comment at this time," an email statement read.