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The Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton. Image: Submitted/Horizon Health Network

Inquest into ER waiting room death makes recommendations

By Brad Perry Apr 10, 2024 | 5:09 AM

Several recommendations have been made aimed at improving emergency department services in New Brunswick.

They stem from a coroner’s inquest into the emergency department waiting room death of Darrell Mesheau back in July of 2022.

Mesheau died at Fredericton’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital while waiting to be seen by a doctor.

A five-member jury heard from 11 witnesses during the two-day inquest, which took place on Monday and Tuesday.

They recommended that all stakeholders should “collaborate and show ownership in the resolution of the bed-blockage issue.”

In particular, the jury said they should focus on the backlog of social development patients “having a significant effect on the efficiency of an operating emergency department.”

Horizon Health said in February that around 34 per cent of its beds are currently occupied by alternate level of care (ALC) patients, including seniors waiting for long-term care.

The health authority said at the time that it would like that number to be down to 20 per cent within the next two years.

Greg Doiron, vice-president of clinical operations, said there is a direct correlation between ALC numbers and how long admitted emergency department patients will need to wait for a bed in a nursing unit.

Meanwhile, the jury also recommended that the eight recommendations that resulted from Horizon’s internal report into Mesheau’s death be “fully implemented, funded and delivered by providing appropriate staffing levels.”

In addition, it said emergency room staff should be equipped with hand-held electronic sources to record patient vitals.

The inquest, which does not make any finding of legal responsibility, found that Mesheau died in a natural manner, with the cause being heart failure.

Mesheau’s death, and the public outcry that followed, led to a major shakeup within the province’s health-care system.

Three days later, the premier replaced Dorothy Shephard as health minister, fired Dr. John Dornan as president and CEO of Horizon Health, and dumped the boards of the regional health authorities.