New Brunswick·CBC Investigates

Nurse who failed to treat dying prisoner still working in New Brunswick

Despite his pleas for help, a nurse didn't give Matthew Hines life-saving treatment after he was beaten and pepper sprayed by guards at Dorchester Penitentiary.

Her name, and the discipline she faced, remains secret

Matthew Hines is remembered by his family as a kind-hearted guy who would help anyone. (CBC)

A nurse who didn't give a dying inmate proper medical treatment is continuing to work in New Brunswick.

Her name, and how she was disciplined, are private.

As Matthew Hines lay dying in Dorchester Penitentiary, he cried for help. He'd been beaten and repeatedly pepper sprayed by guards at the prison, and he was in medical distress.

"Please, please," he said, uttering what may have been his final words.

"I'm begging you, I'm begging you."

Despite his pleas for help, a nurse on duty that night at the prison didn't take Hines's vital signs or give him oxygen. She didn't administer life-saving treatment, such as CPR, contrary to what her notes said.

Hines, from Cape Breton, was pronounced dead at 12:04 a.m. on May 27, 2015. He was 33.

The details come from a scathing report from Canada's prison watchdog, released on Tuesday.

In it, correctional investigator Ivan Zinger slams the correctional agency for a number of failings, including at least 21 instances of staff not following policy.

"Though it is clear that she failed to provide basic nursing within her scope of practice and professional training, the failure to preserve life and prevent death in Matthew's case does not rest solely with this individual," Zinger wrote.

Young and inexperienced

A nurse on duty at Dorchester Penitentiary late on May 26, 2015, failed to give Matthew Hines life-saving treatment. The inmate was beaten and repeatedly pepper sprayed by guards at the prison. (Correctional Service Canada/Flicker)
In an interview earlier this week, Zinger said the nurse was inexperienced.

He questioned why she was allowed to work at Dorchester Penitentiary alone.

"She clearly failed to meet the standard," he said.

"However, she was a young nurse on probation and had not to my knowledge been appropriately trained to work in a correctional environment. This was probably her first time that she encountered such a situation."

It would have taken an experienced nurse to "have the strength" to tell correctional officers to uncuff Hines so she could provide treatment, Zinger added.

His report says the nurse's contract at the prison wasn't renewed.

Nurse's name not published

Matthew Hines begged for help before taking his final breath at Dorchester Penitentiary. He was pronounced dead on May 27, 2015. (CBC)
The prison reported the nurse to the Nurses Association of New Brunswick.

The regulatory body for nursing in the province has the power to investigate complaints and hand out discipline.

It placed conditions on her licence and ordered her to pay $1,500 in costs to the association.

The nurse has met those conditions and her licence is now in "good standing," association spokesperson Jennifer Whitehead said in an email. (She declined an interview request.)

The decision doesn't say what the nurse did wrong or elaborate on the discipline she received.

It also doesn't include her name. Her name can stay private because her licence has never been suspended or revoked, Whitehead said.

The nurse works somewhere in New Brunswick, with no conditions on her licence.

RCMP and the province's coroner are also investigating Hines's death.

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