Nurse testifies she was thrown against the wall, grabbed by the hair

Natasha Poirier remembers being thrown two times against the hospital wall and crying out for help.

But nobody came.  

Poirier took the witness box Monday during the trial of Bruce (Randy) Van Horlick, 69, who is accused of attacking two nurses at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont Hospital in March 2019.

Van Horlick, who was sitting quietly in the fourth row of the courtroom, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault causing bodily harm to Poirier and nurse Teresa Thibeault.  

Natasha was crying and screaming for help.  - Guy Cormier, clinical nurse specialist

Poirier testified she didn't know who Van Horlick was when he entered her office on the fourth floor of the surgical unit.

He told her he was the husband of a woman being treated at the hospital and wanted his wife to switch rooms.

Poirier, 45, said Van Horlick started explaining that his wife had a seizure a few days earlier as a result of medication given by a doctor, and that he didn't want her situated in front of the nurses station.

Because of the seizure, his wife had been moved closer to the nurses station, where staff could keep a closer eye on her, Poirier said. 

Poirier, a nurse manager, said she was trying to understand what Van Horlick was saying and learn who the patient was.

Poirier and Van Horlick were both sitting down when he told her she had three seconds to do something about the room change, she said.

"I froze."

Van Horlick, of Acadieville, grabbed her by her hair, then by the arm and twisted her fingers backward. The woman tried to escape but said he was too strong.

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That's when Poirier started to scream.

She told Crown prosecutor Marie-Andree Mallet she was hit in the left temple at least six times — after that she stopped counting and fell to the floor.

"I fell to my knees, I'm not sure if I lost consciousness," she said.

Accused had a 'blackout' 

She said she then fell to the ground, which is when Van Horlick picked her up and threw her against the wall of her office. 

She fell again and Van Horlick started to punch her multiple times in the nose. 

This time, she could see feet walking past her — hoping someone would notice. 

Pictures that were entered as evidence show there was blood and strands of hair left in the office after the attack.

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Nathan Gorham told Judge Yvette Finn that Van Horlick had a "blackout," which led to the assault. 

Gorham said Poirier was "impatient and frustrated" when Van Horlick asked for his wife's room to be changed.

'He was punching her in the face'

The court also heard from Thibeault, a nurse practitioner who came to help Poirier. When Thibeault opened the door, Poirier was on her hands and knees.

"He had her by the scruff of the neck," Thibeault said. "He was punching her in the face."

Thibeault said she tried to get in between the two of them, but Van Horlick twisted her arm and injured her.

The court also heard from its third witness, Guy Cormier, who works as a clinical nurse specialist and has an office next to Poirier's.

The 54-year-old was in his office when he heard screaming. He said screaming isn't unusual inside the hospital, but he wasn't sure exactly what was going on.

Following the noise, Cormier went into Poirier's office and saw Thibeault trying to protect Poirier, who was trying to protect her head. 

"Natasha was crying and screaming for help," he said.

He told Van Horlick to stop what he was doing and pinned Van Horlick against the wall, with the help of another male staff member. 

Cormier then took Van Horlick into his office and asked staff to call a code white.

"He was constantly repeating that he wanted his wife back in the same room," Cormier said.  

The assault happened at 2 p.m. and the hospital's head of security arrived at Poirier's office at 2:14 p.m. 

RCMP were called and Poirier filed an incident report. 

Attack had 'financial impact'

The Moncton nurse hasn't returned to work since the attack. Often, she said, she's forgetful, gets tired easily and has frequent headaches. She's sensitive to light and has a lot of anxiety.

Poirier said the attack has also caused "tremendous financial impact," forcing her to remortgage her house. 

Court will resume on Feb. 27, where Poirier and her doctor are expected to take the stand. His lawyer said Van Horlick plans to testify in his own defence.