Family demands answers after Fredericton ER sends man home hours after he broke neck

·4 min read
John Barnet was told he broke the C7 vertebra in his neck and broke his sternum in a motorcycle crash in Fredericton on Tuesday. (Submitted by Taylor Grandy - image credit)
John Barnet was told he broke the C7 vertebra in his neck and broke his sternum in a motorcycle crash in Fredericton on Tuesday. (Submitted by Taylor Grandy - image credit)

John Barnet received six hours of hospital care for a broken neck and sternum before being told he had to leave.

Now his family is demanding answers as to why the 41-year-old man was discharged from the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton hours after crashing his motorcycle, and with little in the way of followup care for injuries that could have long-term effects.

"It's unacceptable," Taylor Grandy, his wife, said in an interview Friday.

"He should still be in the hospital. He really should be, you know, at least for a week or more."

Barnet recently purchased a motorcycle and went out for a ride with a friend on Tuesday afternoon, Grandy said.

Shortly after crossing the Princess Margaret Bridge on Route 8, Grandy said, her husband hit some gravel, lost control of his bike and hit the highway median.

Paramedics took him to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital around 8 p.m., where he was treated for a broken C7 vertebra in his neck, a broken sternum, a broken nose, a split tongue and broken teeth.

Grandy said she rushed to the hospital fearing the worst.

Submitted by Taylor Grandy
Submitted by Taylor Grandy

When she got there, a nurse warned her of the severity of Barnet's injuries before wheeling him back into the emergency room on a stretcher following his CT scan.

"He was in so much pain. So much pain. He said, 'Taylor, I think my back's broken,' and it was just a mess."

Grandy said once the results of the CT scan confirmed the broken vertebra in his neck, staff started giving her instructions for maintaining the brace her husband had around his neck.

Then without explanation, they informed the couple Barnet would be discharged from the hospital later that evening.

"They wanted to sit him up in the bed … to kind of get him up moving, and they were like, 'You can go home tonight'.

"And even John couldn't believe it."

Submitted by Taylor Grandy
Submitted by Taylor Grandy

Grandy said she called Barnet's sister at around 1 a.m. to help get him up and out of the hospital. After a 90-minute struggle to move him without hurting him, they had him loaded into the family minivan with their five children and were on their way back to their home in Fredericton.

Staff sent Barnet home with a few Tylenol tablets, prescriptions for naproxen and morphine, and a referral to a neurosurgeon in Saint John, Grandy said.

It's a decision that, even two days later, still has her perplexed considering the severity of his injuries.

"And the doctor did tell me that if he moves a certain way or if he takes the [brace] off or anything like that, he could be paralyzed."

Grandy also said she's called the neurosurgeon Barnet was referred to the day after, only to find out he's away from work for the next week and a half.

In a statement to CBC News, Horizon Health Network said Barnet's discharge wasn't related to bed availability or staff shortages.

"This patient was medically discharged from our ED after the physician completed their assessment using clinical judgment and consulting with peers," wrote Margaret Melanson, Horizon's interim president and CEO.

Both patient representative services and the hospital have been in contact with the family about their concerns, Melanson said, and a specialist is following up with the patient for further medical assessments.

"Horizon apologizes for any part of the care experience that did not meet their expectation," Melanson said. "We look forward to continuing to provide care to this patient as they recover."

Grandy is the second person this month to publicly criticize the Chalmers hospital.

John Staples said he witnessed an older man die while waiting to receive care in the hospital's waiting room in the early morning hours of July 12.

It prompted Horizon to launch a review into what happened, and later prompted Premier Blaine Higgs to fire Horizon CEO John Dornan, and replace the board of directors for both Horizon and Vitalité with individual trustees.

Seeking action from premier

Aside from his wife, Barnet's parents are also demanding answers and action in light of the decision to discharge him hours after arriving at the hospital.

Submitted by Dave Barnet
Submitted by Dave Barnet

"The action of the hospital leaves us with disgust and anger," Dave and Nancy Barnet said in a letter they sent to Higgs on Thursday.

"Why was our son not kept for observation for at least 24 to 48 hours after being told he could be paralyzed? Why was he sent home in his condition after six hours?"

In an interview Friday, Dave Barnet said he hadn't heard back from Higgs, adding he's not just looking for an explanation, but action to improve the care offered at the hospital.

"I'm hoping to hear that some kind of statement or news comes out, that they're going to find more money or allocate resources or transfer money and get more nurses and or doctors in the [Chalmers] to resolve this critical situation," Barnet said.

In an email statement to CBC News, Higgs said he has received the Barnets' letter and will be contacting them to learn more about their experience.

"It's not something I will comment further on in the media as I would prefer to speak with them directly," he said.

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