New Brunswick

Horizon Health, nurse deny wrongdoing in alleged misuse of labour-inducing drug

The nurse named in a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of women who were allegedly "inappropriately" given a labour-inducing drug at the Moncton Hospital has filed a claim of defence.

Nicole Ruest, Horizon Health Network file statements of defence

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

The nurse named in a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of women who were allegedly "inappropriately" given a labour-inducing drug at the Moncton Hospital has filed a claim of defence.

The lawsuit, filed in May with the Court of Queen's Bench in Moncton, alleges that Nicole Ruest for years administered Oxytocin to pregnant women without their knowledge or consent, through a punctured saline IV bag in at least one case.

The lawsuit was filed by the Halifax-based firm McKiggan Hebert and Fidelis of Moncton. Jayde Scott, 26, is the representative plaintiff of the proposed class-action suit, which has not yet been certified. It also named Horizon Health Network as the other defendant.

Ruest's statement of defence, filed by Polley Faith LLP of Toronto, denies the allegations made in the claim.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jayde Scott, 26, a representative plaintiff of the proposed class action lawsuit, which has not yet been certified. (CBC)

It said that Ruest was employed by Horizon Health Network in the maternity ward at the Hospital and that between September 2010 and March 2019 she worked in the Hospital's labour and delivery ward.

The statement said Ruest cared for her patients "competently and diligently" and according to the standards of her profession.

It also denies allegations of intentional misconduct and fraud.

"Ms. Ruest denies administering Oxytocin when she knew it was contraindicated, in contravention of medical order, or harmful to the plaintiff, any proposed class member, and/or their fetus," the statement read. "Ms. Ruest also denies that she attempted to conceal her actions from the plaintiff, any proposed class member, the attending physician, or her employer."

It goes on to say Ruest denies that the plaintiff or any proposed class members have suffered the injuries or damages alleged in the statement of claim.

"If the plaintiff or any proposed class member did suffer injuries or damages as alleged, any such injuries or damages were not cause by Ms. Ruest. Further any such alleged injuries or damages are excessive and/or too remote to be recoverable in law."

It also asked that the claim be dismissed against her with costs.

Ruest suing former employer

The statement also contains a cross claim against the Horizon Health Network, asking for compensation against any damages, interest and costs awarded to the plaintiff, along with her costs.

On March 30, Horizon confirmed that a registered nurse at Moncton Hospital was fired after an internal investigation revealed "strong evidence" the nurse administered Oxytocin, which caused two women to require an urgent caesarean section.

The name of the nurse was not disclosed. The court documents identify her as Ruest.

RCMP said they are investigating the allegations of misuse of the labour-inducing drug. (CBC)

Oxytocin is a drug used in labour and delivery that causes the uterus to contract and speed 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 due to oxygen deprivation.

The drug can also be harmful to mothers because it can cause uterine rupture, bleeding and unnecessary assisted deliveries or caesarean sections, also known as C-sections.

Horizon files cross claim, defence

The Horizon Health Network has also filed a cross claim against Ruest, along with its own statement of defence. Fredericton lawyer David Hashey of the law firm Cox and Palmer is representing the health authority.

The statement acknowledged that Ruest was employed as a registered nurse in the labour and delivery unit at the Moncton Hospital.

It also said obstetricians at the hospital were concerned over the increasing number of emergency caesarean sections requiring general anesthetic and were trying to determine the reason why.

"The defendant hospital states that if the defendant Ruest was administering Oxytocin to mothers who were in labour at the Moncton Hospital without a physician's orders, she did so without the knowledge and consent of the defendant hospital and physicians, and was acting outside of her duties as an obstetrical nurse and outside the scope of her professional practice and was on a frolic of her own," the statement read. 

"The defendant hospital denies all other allegations contained therein and puts the plantiff to the strict proof thereof."

It also said Ruest was terminated as an obstetrical nurse.

Referring to Scott's case, Horizon's statement of defence said on March 27, 2019, she had a caesarean section and delivered healthy twins and it has no knowledge of other allegations.

It also asks the action against the defendant hospital be dismissed with costs.

The RCMP is conducting an investigation, but no charges have been laid.