Mother says hospital ERs unprepared for measles patients
Faced with measles scare, mother calls hospital ahead of time to find out protocol and learns there isn't one
A Moncton mother is warning emergency rooms are unprepared to deal with outbreaks of measles.
It comes as a second case of measles in a month was discovered in the Saint John area this week — the first reported cases in New Brunswick since 2017. The second individual had visited the ER in Saint John at the same time as the first.
When Kathleen Gunn's five-year-old son Isaiah was showing signs of measles, she did what any responsible parent would do — she called.
"I called ahead of time and asked what their protocols would be, and they said that they don't have any protocols, and I can just bring him in," said the 27-year-old mother.
- 2nd case of measles confirmed in New Brunswick
- Confirmed case of measles in Saint John, public health warns
That was the answer from the Georges-Dumont Hospital.
It didn't sound right to her, so she tried the Moncton Hospital next. She was put through to an emergency nurse.
I was in shock. There's no words really.- Kathleen Gunn
"She told me that her nurses are too busy to discuss protocols and hung up on me," said Gunn.
"I was in shock. There's no words really."
Rash on face and neck
Isaiah's face was covered in a red bumpy rash, that spread down to his throat and neck. The symptoms started a few days prior, with a cough and a runny nose.
Even though he received the MMR vaccine, the doctor had called the family after the second dose to say there was a little problem with the shot — it was expired.
Gunn ended up bringing her son to the Georges-Dumont emergency room. When she explained to a nurse Isaiah's symptoms, they were not given masks or separated from other patients.
In the end, Gunn was relieved to learn it was fifth disease.
According to public health, fifth disease, often called "slapped face" disease, is an infection which, in children, often appears as a bright red rash on the face. It is usually mild but in cases of people with low immune systems or pregnant women in can cause complications.
Gunn feels the hospitals should have handled things differently.
"You don't know if people in the waiting room have low immune systems," she said. "There's elderly — there's an elderly person that was brought in a wheelchair. And I was just horrified one of these people was going to get what Isaiah had."
Not supposed to go in
Gunn's story differs vastly from how the health authorities say these cases should be handled.
A spokesperson for the Vitalité Health Network, which runs the Georges-Dumont Hospital, said because measles is highly contagious, it requires the implementation of specific protocols.
"Upon arrival, once there is suspicion of potential measles, the patient must be provided with a regular face mask and is immediately placed in a negative pressure isolation room," Thomas Lizotte, regional media relations adviser, wrote to CBC News.
Horizon Health Network, which runs the Moncton Hospital, follows a similar process, but a spokesperson there said people with suspected or confirmed measles should not go to emergency rooms at all.
"Unless urgent care is required, they should remain at home until four days after the rash appears," said Shannon MacLeod, senior communications adviser. People who think they have measles should also call New Brunswick Tele-Care 811.
According to a statement from the office of public health, the health-care provider can tell patients to come in, and prepare precautionary measures as needed, or tell the patient to self-isolate at home. It depends on "symptoms and severity as well as the potential for an exposure."
Gunn said she would do it all over again but wishes the case was taken more seriously.
"I feel like other people need to be protected," she said. "I think that there needs to be the proper measures in place to deal with these kinds of situations.
"They thought I was overreacting … it's disheartening really."
- An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Kathleen Gunn's last name.May 15, 2019 4:03 PM AT