Horizon says charges pending against ex-employee after induced-labour investigation

Horizon Health Network says an RCMP investigation has led to pending criminal charges against a former Moncton Hospital employee. 

Horizon announced earlier this year it fired a nurse after women were allegedly administered the labour-inducing drug oxytocin without their consent.

Nicole Ruest was named as the nurse in a proposed class action lawsuit. Documents filed by Horizon in the case acknowledged Ruest was employed as a registered nurse in the labour and delivery unit at the hospital but was fired.

Codiac Regional RCMP Sgt. Mathieu Roy said a person was arrested in connection with the case on Nov. 25.

Roy said investigators questioned the person and released them on a promise to appear in court in May 2020. Police would not confirm the person arrested was a former hospital employee. 

"It would be inappropriate for me to name a person during an investigation who hasn't been formally charged in court," Roy said in an interview.

CBC

Dr. Ken Gillespie, chief of staff at the Moncton Hospital, issued a statement on behalf of Horizon Health Network on Wednesday but did not name the employee.

"Horizon Health Network has co-operated with the RCMP investigation that has led to the pending criminal charges being laid against our former employee," Gillespie said. "We will continue to participate in any future court proceedings as necessary."

The statement thanked staff who have taken part in the investigation. 

"We regret this situation took place at our hospital and we sincerely apologize to our patients, families and staff that were affected," Gillespie said. 

Wildinette Paul/Radio-Canada

A law firm representing Ruest did not respond to an interview request Wednesday. Calls to Ruest's Moncton home went unanswered. 

Ruest was fired after allegations surfaced she had improperly given the labour-inducing drug oxytocin to at least two mothers in her care.

Horizon confirmed on March 30 that an unnamed nurse at the hospital was fired and under criminal investigation by the RCMP for allegedly "inappropriately" administering oxytocin to two patients.

An internal investigation revealed "strong evidence" the nurse administered oxytocin to two patients without consent, which caused the women to require an urgent caesarean section, Horizon said.

Class-action lawsuit filed

The oxytocin was allegedly administered in at least one case via small punctures in an IV saline bag, according to a proposed class-action lawsuit filed with the Court of Queen's Bench on April 11.

Ruest's statement of defence denies the allegations made in the claim. 

Horizon has also filed a cross claim against Ruest, along with its own statement of defence. The statement acknowledged that Ruest was employed as a registered nurse in the labour and delivery unit at the Moncton Hospital but was fired. 

Horizon's court filing says obstetricians at the hospital were concerned about the increasing number of emergency caesarean sections requiring general anesthetic and were trying to determine the reason for it.

"The defendant hospital states that if the defendant Ruest was administering oxytocin to mothers who were in labour at the Moncton Hospital without a physician's orders, she did so without the knowledge and consent of the defendant hospital and physicians, and was acting outside of her duties as an obstetrical nurse and outside the scope of her professional practice and was on a frolic of her own," the statement read. 

"The defendant hospital denies all other allegations contained therein and puts the plaintiff to the strict proof thereof."

None of the allegations have been proven in court.