Nfld. & Labrador

Nursing home death linked to food errors

A western Newfoundland family says errors in preparing a tray of food led to a disabled man's death in a long-term-care institution, and Western Health has apologized.

Whole brussels sprouts involved in fatal choking incident

Western Health says human error was involved in a fatal choking incident at the Corner Brook Long Term Care Home. (CBC)

A western Newfoundland family says errors in preparing a tray of food led to a disabled man's death in a long-term-care institution. 

Western Health has apologized for how staff handled a tray of food given to Peter Hickey, a partially paralyzed patient who in December choked to death on brussels sprouts that had not been ground to a purée. He was 53.

"I would say the system let us down, and they let Peter down," said Hickey's sister, Lucy Sheehan.

Hickey, who was severely injured in a 1988 fall, lived at the Corner Brook Long Term Care Home, where his care included having his meals served as purées.

Lucy Sheehan says her family will not sue Western Health but wants changes in how food is served to patients. (CBC )

Sheehan said that the brussels sprouts were served whole and that her brother choked on one while trying to eat it.

Sheehan said her brother should never have been left to feed himself.

"We suggested it, but suggestions are no good," she said. "Look where Peter is at today.

"We couldn't give Peter the care he needed at home, so that's where we put him, so someone else could look after him. And this is what happened to him."

Peter Hickey, seen in this family photo, was partially paralyzed in a 1988 fall. (CBC )

Sheehan said the family considered a lawsuit against Western Health, but decided against it. She said the family hopes that officials learn from the mistake.

Kelli O'Brien, Western Health's chief executive officer for long-term care and rural health, said the incident involved human error.

"This is clearly Western Health's responsibility, for which we are truly sorry to the family," she said.

"The meal tray process and all the checks along the way didn't work for us in this situation."

O'Brien said that as a result of Hickey's death, kitchen staff at the facility have now added another safety check to their review of food served to patients.