Edmundston ER death happened under 'much different' circumstances than Fredericton one, minister says

No Edmundston Regional Hospital staff were injured in the events that led to the death of a patient in the emergency room, Vitalité Health Network says.  (Radio-Canada - image credit)
No Edmundston Regional Hospital staff were injured in the events that led to the death of a patient in the emergency room, Vitalité Health Network says. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

A "tragic event" ended in the death of a person at the Edmundston emergency room, the Vitalité Health Network said Monday.

On Sunday, a person was admitted to the emergency department of the Edmundston Regional Hospital.

"The person ... lost their life under unforeseeable and exceptional circumstances," Dr. France Desrosiers, CEO of Vitalité, said in a news release.

The network has shared no details about the person, why they were in the emergency room, what happened leading up to the death, or the cause of death.

"For confidentiality purposes and due to the delicate nature of the incident, no further details can be provided to the public at this time," Desrosiers said.

This death comes on the heels of a death in the waiting room of the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital emergency room in Fredericton. That death triggered a major shakeup in health-care leadership in New Brunswick.

In response to a request for an interview, new Health Minister Bruce Fitch sent an emailed statement.

He said the circumstances of the Edmundston case were different from the Fredericton one but did not say how.

"I can't discuss the details surrounding this tragic event," Fitch said.

"It's important to note that the Department of Health must protect every individual's right to privacy — even those who are now deceased."

Fitch expressed his condolences to the family of the person who died Sunday. He said "an investigation will be completed," but did not say by whom.

No one from Vitalité was made available for an interview about the incident, although it happened in a part of the hospital members of the public use every day.

Desrosiers said she was at the Edmundston hospital Monday speaking to staff.

Did service failure contribute to death?

It's not known how long the person was waiting for care, or whether a shortage of staff played a role in the death.

Jean-Claude D'Amours, Liberal health critic, said he doesn't have a lot of information about what happened, but "it's fair to let the health network do the investigation."

He said he would like to see what the investigation finds about what services were provided and if there was any lack of resources that led to the person's death.

"In the end I hope to see the detail … about the services that were provided, the services that were needed by that individual and understand in the end if it was the lack of resources, lack of services, that created that situation."

No one else hurt

Vitalité was asked whether mental health was a factor, in what capacity the police were involved and whether Vitalité kept track of unexpected ER deaths

"No further details can be provided," Vitalité spokesperson Thomas Lizotte said.

No employees or members of the medical staff were injured.

Desrosiers said a "comprehensive internal root cause assessment of the incident" is underway, and police and the coroner's office are also investigating.

"The Network also wishes to acknowledge the exemplary work and professionalism of its staff in handling this unfortunate incident," Desrosiers said.

"The Network extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased."

Police try to understand

In response to a request for interview, the Edmundston Police Force issued a news release saying officers were called to the hospital on Sunday "to offer assistance following an event where a person unfortunately died in unexpected circumstances."

The force said it's investigating what happened " to better understand and assess the facts surrounding this unfortunate incident."

The news also comes as many hospitals are struggling with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lack of staff. Some hospitals have reduced services, including the Edmundston hospital, and other emergency rooms have reduced hours.