Statement from Interim President & CEO Margaret Melanson regarding deaths of patients while awaiting care in the ED

HORIZON – As a follow-up to our news conference on Wednesday and subsequent media coverage, I wanted to provide further information on how Horizon responds to and records unexpected deaths, specifically in our emergency departments (ED).

Firstly, I must start by reiterating that my heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the two patients who have passed away unexpectedly while awaiting care in the ED. These deaths are tragic. They are also incredibly rare occurrences. These are the only individuals who have died while awaiting care in ED waiting rooms since Horizon Health Network was established in 2008.

Unfortunately, deaths in EDs are not always preventable. Patients who are cared for in our EDs often have complex, acute medical needs, including strokes, heart attacks or injuries caused by accidents.

I am grateful to Horizon’s emergency care teams, who provide the best possible care to patients under very challenging circumstances.

When an unexpected death does occur (known as an adverse event), such as a death in a waiting room, Horizon follows a specific protocol.

  • The death is immediately reviewed by clinical teams to determine if it was preventable.
  • A thorough quality review is then conducted to determine how we can improve and prevent similar events from occurring in the future.
  • Once the quality review is complete, the results are shared with the family of the patient.

Horizon captures data on all deaths that occur in the ED as outlined by the national standards set out by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).  

Over the past several months, we have introduced several changes to improve emergency care, by following through with recommendations from our quality reviews, acting on the needs of our patients and engaging physicians, nurses and staff. These improvements include:

  • Adding more staff to monitor patients in waiting rooms of our EDs to check vital signs, provide comfort measures and monitor the well-being of those waiting to be seen;
  • Introducing social workers to prevent social admissions, reduce ED visits and reduce the length of stay for admitted patients;
  • Establishing patient flow centres so patients can be seen more quickly; and
  • Sharing information on how to access community resources for non-urgent needs, such as Tele-Care 811, eVisitNB, pharmacists and after-hour clinics.

We will be implementing several additional initiatives to improve access to and flow within our EDs in the new year. We look forward to providing more details about this plan in the coming weeks.