New Brunswick

More mothers contemplate legal action against Moncton delivery nurse

Nicole Ruest was fired from the Moncton Hospital last month, after accusations she administered labour inducing drug oxytocin to mothers without their consent, or the doctor's knowledge

Class action lawsuit proposed last month against nurse accused of giving oxytocin without mothers' knowledge

Registered nurse Nicole Ruest worked at the Moncton Hospital in the labour and delivery ward since 2010. (Instagram)

More mothers are contemplating legal action against labour and delivery nurse Nicole Ruest, fired from the Moncton Hospital in March after allegations surfaced she had improperly given the labour-inducing drug oxytocin to at least two mothers in her care.

Amélie Coomber attended a get-together in Moncton Tuesday, along with more than a dozen other concerned mothers who believe they were victims of the rogue nurse's actions.

Coomber admits she was unsure about coming forward but felt compelled to seek answers by something bigger than herself.

"It's for my daughter, it's for my husband … it's to help out all these parents who lived the same trauma," said Coomber.

Amélie Coomber said she always wondered where she had gone wrong in her pregnancy, until finally she realized others had similar stories. (CBC)

She went to the hospital in January 2018. Everything was fine, but moments after being hooked up to an IV, her baby's heart rate began plummeting.

She had her girl, Jade, 15 minutes later by emergency  caesarean but always blamed herself and wondered where she had gone wrong — until she realized she wasn't the only one with a similar story.

"I thought I was by myself out there," she said.

Eerily similar stories

While Coomber is just beginning to contemplate legal action, other mothers have already contacted authorities and came to share their story.

Patricia Wells said she is still looking for answers as to what happened the night of the delivery of her baby girl Zoe, now five months old.

"Within five minutes of being hooked up to the IV, her heart rate dropped, and then within 10 minutes we were off to the emergency C-section," said Wells

More mothers are contemplating legal action against former Moncton Hospital nurse Nicole Ruest after allegations surfaced she had improperly given the labour-inducing drug oxytocin to at least two mothers in her care. 1:26

Caitlin Middleton's story is eerily similar — given an IV, and after minutes, strong contractions, jump in her heart rate and drop in the baby's.

But with no time for an epidural, she was put under general anesthesia for the emergency C-section. Her baby girl Nora was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit, but the parents were never sure why — until they got their hands on the medical file, that is.

Caitlin Middleton's baby daughter, Nora, was sent to the NICU, but the mother never fully understood why until getting her hands on her medical record. (Caitlin Middleton)

"I was not told that she had to be resuscitated," said Middleton. "I was not told that she was born not breathing. I had to read all of that in my records."

Middleton said Nicole Ruest's signature was on her chart, signed just before she went into the operating room.

Hospital blamed too

Much of the frustration expressed was about how much these mothers only found out by getting hold of their medical records.

"There's no ownership," said Sally Davis, who deplored the burden being left to mothers having to contact the hospital to find out whether they were victims, rather than the other way around.

"There's no information and there's no support. You have to actively and aggressively go get the information," she said.

Davis and others said they had to go back to the hospital on at least three separate occasions to get their complete medical records.

Sally Davis said the hospital should have done more to contact mother they believed were victims of the nurse's actions. (CBC)

In response to allegations it didn't do enough, the Horizon Health Network sent CBC News a statement Tuesday saying it had encouraged patients to reach out to patient representative services and assisted those requesting their health records.

"Staff and physicians sincerely empathize with all of those involved and continue to work with mothers and families to ensure their concerns are addressed," the statement said.

RCMP said the criminal investigation is only at the beginning, calling this an extremely serious and complex case, with several officers involved.

Ruest worked 15 years in labour and delivery at the Moncton Hospital.

RCMP are investigating the alleged misuse of labour-inducing drug Oxytocin at Moncton Hospital. (CBC)

The New Brunswick Nurses Association suspended her licence indefinitely after an internal investigation revealed "strong evidence" she administered oxytocin to two patients without consent, which caused the women to require an urgent caesarean section.

Oxytocin is a drug that causes the uterus to contract and speeds up labour. It can be dangerous for babies because it can cut off oxygen to the fetus and affect fetal heart rate, potentially causing brain damage because of oxygen deprivation.

The oxytocin was allegedly administered in at least one case via small punctures in an IV saline bag, according to the lawsuit statement of claim.

Moncton Hospital allegedly knew that it had a "suspiciously" high rate of emergency C-sections but failed to investigate, the statement of claim alleges.

None of the allegations have been proven, and no arrest has been made. CBC News made repeated attempts to speak with Ruest without success. 

When contacted by phone, she replied "no comment" before hanging up.

About the Author

Gabrielle Fahmy is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been a journalist with the CBC since 2014.

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