Saskatoon

Widow of dead Sask. health worker alleges negligence in husband's emergency room care

A widow in North Battleford, Sask., says her husband received inadequate treatment after going to the emergency room with chest pains. Tom Thomas, 34, had been diagnosed with COVID-19 a week before.

Saskatchewan Health Authority says it can't discuss case, but takes complaints about care seriously

Tom Thomas, left, died on February 15 after experiencing chest pains about a week after going into self-isolation because of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. His wife, Merin George, right, says she believes he did not receive adequate treatment in the emergency room. (Neelima Studio/YouTube)

The last time Merin George saw her husband Tom Thomas alive was through a window as he was getting into his car. The 34-year-old was going to the hospital because he was having chest pains. 

The couple hadn't touched each other in days, George said. Thomas, a continuing care aide, was infected with COVID-19 and had been self-isolating in a room inside their house. They communicated over video chats. 

Little over an hour after Thomas left for the hospital, a doctor phoned George to break the news. Thomas was dead after a heart attack. 

George, 31, is a long-term care worker in North Battleford and was formerly a registered nurse in India. Thomas's sudden death on Feb. 15 has left her as the sole parent to their 16-month-old daughter. 

It's also left her with a lot of questions about whether Thomas received adequate treatment in the emergency room at Battlefords Union Hospital. 

George said she wonders whether more could have been done to save her husband's life, based on her conversation with the doctor. 

"I believe it's because of negligence," she said of Thomas' death. 

Merin George and Tom Thomas were married in 2017. They were both seeking certification to work as registered nurses in Saskatchewan, as they did in India. (Don Paul)

Complaint filed 

George has filed a complaint through a quality of care co-ordinator, a position established by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to help family members put forth questions or concerns about their relative's care.

"From there, we can work together to start the confidential process to answer questions and see how we may be able to help," said Doug Dahl, an SHA spokesperson. "We take these matters very seriously." 

In addition to responding to George's complaint, the SHA is investigating Thomas' death to establish whether it is one the nearly 400 Saskatchewan deaths attributable to COVID-19. If so, Thomas would be the first health-care worker in the province whose death is related to the virus.  

Thomas worked as a continuing care aide at Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford. Health officials declared a COVID-19 outbreak there on Feb. 4.

Thomas's friend Don Paul previously told CBC News that Thomas tested positive for the virus and believed he had been exposed at his workplace. He said Thomas received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 5.

Thomas — who was otherwise active and healthy — began experiencing chest pains approximately one week into his self-isolation, Paul said. 

'I will be back soon' 

George said she encouraged her husband to go to the hospital. Thomas called her once he'd arrived and said a nurse had taken his vital signs, she said. 

"He told me, 'I am fine, I'm OK.' Then he told me, 'No need to call me. I will be back soon,'" George said.

"After 30 minutes or so, I didn't get any reply from him, so I called him again. But he didn't answer."

WATCH BELOW: Merin George and Tom Thomas were married in 2017. Thomas posted their wedding video to his YouTube page. 


No CPR given, wife says

The next call George received was from a doctor, she said. 

"[He] told me that [my] husband died. I asked the doctor, 'How? I can't believe [it[. My husband was totally healthy.'"

George said she asked the doctor if CPR was performed on her husband after he had collapsed. 

"He told me, 'No,'" she said. "I don't know why they didn't do anything."

George said she is still waiting for the autopsy results and wants to know what diagnostic testing was done on Thomas. 

The Saskatchewan Health Authority declined to provide any details about George's complaint case. 

"We are unable to publicly discuss any specific case in accordance with HIPA (Health Information Protection Act)," Dahl said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

with files from Bonnie Allen

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