New Brunswick

What we know about the alleged misuse of labour-inducing drug in Moncton

More details about the alleged misuse of a labour-inducing drug at the Moncton Hospital are slowly beginning to emerge.

Mother says Oxytocin allegedly administered via small punctures in an IV saline bag

Former nurse Nicole Ruest holding a stethoscope
Former nurse Nicole Ruest was fired in March 2019, after women at the Moncton Hospital were allegedly administered the labour-inducing drug, oxytocin, without their consent. (Instagram)

More details about the alleged misuse of a labour-inducing drug at the Moncton Hospital are slowly beginning to emerge.

The Horizon Health Network confirmed on March 30 that an unnamed nurse at the hospital was fired and under criminal investigation by the RCMP for allegedly "inappropriately" administering Oxytocin to two patients.

Here is what we know so far.

How Oxytocin is used

Oxytocin is a drug used in labour and delivery 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 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.

How drug's use at Moncton Hospital was discovered 

An internal investigation revealed "strong evidence" the nurse administered Oxytocin to two patients without consent, which caused the women to require an urgent caesarean section, Horizon said.

The Oxytocin was allegedly administered in at least one case via small punctures in an IV saline bag, according to a proposed class-action lawsuit filed with the Court of Queen's Bench on April 11.

The Horizon Health Network, which includes the Moncton Hospital, is the second largest health authority in Atlantic Canada. It includes 12 hospitals, has 13,000 employees and an annual budget of $1.2 billion. (CBC)

About the nurse allegedly involved

The lawsuit identifies Nicole Ruest as the nurse in question. It names her and Horizon as the defendants.

The statement of claim says Ruest has worked at the Moncton Hospital for at least 15 years.

During that time, Ruest has been involved in "hundreds" of labours and deliveries, according to John McKiggan, one of the lawyers handling the lawsuit.

Police have not released the name of the nurse involved, but Ruest was identified in the proposed class action lawsuit statement of claim filed Thursday morning.

Women given labour-inducing drug file proposed class action against hospital, nurse

4 years ago
Duration 1:07
Jayde Scott recounts how traumatic it was for her to give birth after allegedly being given labour-inducing drug.

The response from patients

Jayde Scott, 26, is the representative plaintiff of the proposed class action, which has not yet been certified.

Scott was 38 weeks and three days pregnant with twins when she had an emergency C-section after allegedly being given Oxytocin without her consent by Ruest, according to the statement of claim.

"It was extremely traumatizing," Scott said in tears during a news conference Thursday to announce the lawsuit, which covers 2005 to 2019. 

"I didn't get to meet my girls right away. I was put unconscious, right? So it's supposed to be an exciting moment and that was robbed."

She said her daughters are doing very well, but that her heart goes out to the other women who were affected. 

"Dozens" of other moms who are concerned they may have been affected have contacted the lawyers.

More than 40 concerned patients have contacted Horizon, as of April 2. Horizon has declined to provide an updated number or say whether it's looking into other cases that may have involved the nurse.

An emotional Jayde Scott, the representative plaintiff of the proposed class action, urged other mothers to come forward. (Ron Ward/Canadian Press)

The response from the institution

On March 30, Horizon Health confirmed that an unnamed nurse was fired. Meanwhile, the New Brunswick Nurses Association suspended the nurse's licence indefinitely, so she can no longer practise in the province.

None of the allegations have been proven.

No arrest has been made.

Horizon, the New Brunswick Nurses Union and the Nurses Association of New Brunswick have all declined further comment, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

Patients who had a "strong and sustained contraction of the uterus associated with a low fetal heart beat typically requiring a C-section" are encouraged to call Horizon at 1-844-225-0220 or to contact the RCMP.