Allison Holthoff, a 37-year-old Canadian woman, had to go to Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst, Nova Scotia after experiencing severe stomach pain, but she barely made it past the waiting room.
Gunter Holthoff, her husband, said his wife started feeling nauseous on December 31. She went to the emergency room the next morning when the condition got worse. Gunter reportedly had to carry her on his back until he could find a wheelchair.
“She was obviously in pain,” he told the outlet. “I was rolling her in the wheelchair, and she could hardly sit up.”
He said she was triaged fairly quickly after they arrived at the hospital at 11 AM, but they ended up waiting seven hours in the waiting room before she was seen.
“I told the nurses and the lady at the desk there a couple of times, ‘It is getting worse,’ and nothing happened,” he said. “So, the security guards, in time, they brought a couple blankets out and they brought us a cup of water and I used it to put some ice on her lips.”
And so, they waited, but no one came.
“I think that she actually started saying that she thought she was dying in the waiting room outside,” Gunter continued. “But she kept saying it more and more. She said, ‘I think I’m dying. Don’t let me die here.’ And I said, ‘No, that’s why I’ve got you in the hospital.’ “
After six hours of waiting, Gunter said Allison was taken into a unit with no medical equipment. He added that he had to help her use a bedpan and was forced to use paper towel from a roll on the wall to clean up. She didn’t end up seeing the doctor until around 6 PM. They gave her some pain medication and prepared her for an x-ray, but her condition started deteriorating rapidly. Gunter remembers standing there watching her struggling to breathe.
“The next thing is [her] eyes rolled back in her head and her chest started rising. Something started beeping,” he told the press. “The next thing you hear is over the PA, ‘code blue, code blue in X-ray.'”
The medical staff asked Gunter to leave the room. He said they later told him they made three attempts to resuscitate Allison, but they were unsuccessful.
“Even if she would have survived at that point … she had too long a time without sufficient blood flow to the brain and vital organs. It would have been not a life worth living,” he said.
The family is still waiting for an autopsy, but Gunter says his wife would still be alive today if she had received the proper care when she arrived.
“We need change, the system is obviously broken. Or if it’s not broken yet, it’s not too far off,” he said. “Something needs to improve. I don’t want anybody else to go through this.”
Gunter added that he and his wife felt “neglected” by the hospital and that their children didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to their mother.
“Unfortunately, I feel like we were neglected until it was to a point they couldn’t ignore us anymore,” Gunter said. “At that point, it was just too late.”
He later contacted his local representative, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, for help. She wrote a letter to the provincial Health Minister asking them to investigate the matter but her request to meet was denied.
“The government doesn’t seem to pay any attention,” Gunter complained. “I don’t know what needs to happen … or how many more people need to die. It’s just a shame.”
Smith-McCrossin says she will continue to push the government for an investigation.
“That is why we’re requesting an investigation, so that family has those answers,” she said. “They’ve heard nothing from anyone in government and the challenge is because they’re not hearing anything, it’s getting more and more upsetting.”