Family called 911 from Miller Centre

Barb Sweet
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Almost a year later, they’re still waiting on a reply from client relations office

Sue Rideout (right) is still waiting for answers from Eastern Health on the complaint she made nearly a year ago about her mother (left) Geraldine Hartery’s treatment at the Miller Centre. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

A woman who called 911 to get help for her mother last year while the senior was a patient at the Miller Centre in St. John’s is still waiting for answers from Eastern Health.

Sue Rideout said she called the client relations office in April 2011, the same day she phoned for paramedics to transfer her mother to the Health Sciences Centre for treatment.

Rideout called from Geraldine Hartery’s bedside because her mother’s heart rate and blood pressure were up. The drastic move came after she said a doctor at the Miller Centre disagreed with having Hartery taken off an anti-nausea drug that the family believes caused her to lose muscle function.

“The paramedics came and thought they were going for a routine transfer. … I waved them in,” Rideout said, adding the paramedics found that Hartery was suffering from an abnormal heart rhythm and transported her to Emergency at the Health Sciences Centre.

Eastern Health confirmed the patient’s family has been in discussions with the client relations office, but cannot speak to the media about a patient’s case.

A spokeswoman said the authority takes every complaint seriously.

Rideout said staff at the Miller Centre had checked her mother’s vital signs previously and said she was fine, even though a physiotherapy session had been cut short because of her heartbeat and shortness of breath.

Before the incident, Rideout said staff attending to her mother at the Miller Centre suggested to the family that Hartery should be in a long-term care facility and confined to a wheelchair.

But now, nearly a year after she stopped taking the drug Stemetil, Hartery is not only walking and functioning fine at home, she’s looking forward to a trip to Ontario to visit her other daughter, goes shopping with her sisters once a week and has improved drastically.

While for some patients, like Hartery, Stemetil is given to treat nausea, the drug can also be used for psychiatric patients.

“That took years off my life, that day I had to save her by taking her out of one facility to bring her to the emergency department,” Rideout said. “It killed me that I had to do it.”

Hartery’s ordeal started in early 2011 when she had a mild heart attack, followed by surgery after complications from a dye test that caused her stomach to be distended.

Then she had a stroke but began physiotherapy at the Health Sciences Centre and was making progress, Rideout said. After about two months, her family and her husband were looking forward to her being transferred to the Miller Centre to continue speech and physical therapy.

“So the end of February they came to us and said she’s going to the Miller Centre. We were elated,” Rideout said.

She said her mother was put on Stemetil at the Health Sciences Centre and was given it intravenously every six hours.  The family didn’t question it as she was on numerous drugs. The drug order kept getting renewed, and by the time she got to the Miller Centre, she couldn’t feed herself or walk.

Hartery described her state as like being stuck in a glass jar.

“I couldn’t even open a tube of toothpaste,” she recalled.

Rideout said the family was bewildered as to why her mother was going downhill — they say she couldn’t even smile. Rideout’s sister, Heather, a physiotherapist on maternity leave from a ward for stroke patients in Ontario, mentioned the case to a neurology resident there. According to Rideout, the resident suspected the drug was responsible for her mother’s problems.

So the family fought with staff until they took Hartery off the drug. On the following Monday, when she saw the doctor assigned to her mother’s case, Rideout said he wouldn’t listen to their concerns and request for their mother to see a neurologist, but wanted her to have a lung X-ray because he suspected a blood clot.

Rideout said the doctor told them to take her somewhere else if they didn’t like the treatment he was providing.

Rideout said after she called 911, her mother was put on a medication that eased her rigidity symptoms within 24 hours. The problem with her heart rate was caused by her heart medication not being adjusted after she came off the Stemetil, Rideout explained.

When Hartery began to improve and returned to the Miller Centre, there was no acknowledgement of what had happened and no better treatment by staff, Rideout said.

But she did have a different doctor and worked hard at outpatient therapy when she went hone.

“I’d say she is 99 per cent of what she was before,” Rideout said of her mother’s condition.

“They didn’t advocate there was something wrong with me,” Hartery said of many of the staff at the Miller Centre assigned to her case.

Now the family is frustrated with the wait for answers from Eastern Health, although Rideout said she’s made a number of inquiries, even to CEO Vickie Kaminski’s office.

Hartery commented on her treatment on a survey she was sent about her care at the Miller Centre.

“To this day, no one has given a reason why I was ordered the drug or who ordered it,” Hartery said in the document.

“This medicine was turning me to stone. If my family did not consult an outside neurologist or call the ambulance on April 4th, I would not be alive today. … I pray that this hasn’t happened to another family or happen to others in days to come.”

“I don’t understand how so many walls were put up to getting her taken off the drug,” Rideout said.

“I didn’t understand why she was on this drug in first place. …This is a mistake.”

Organizations: Miller Centre, Health Sciences Centre, Health Sciences Centre.Eastern Health

Geographic location: Ontario

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Recent comments

  • A healthcare worker with an aging mom
    April 02, 2012 - 23:05

    Geraldine, Sue and their family never received a response from Eastern Health as they were hoping they would go away if given enough red tape and road blocks. This is inexcusable, cold and cowardly.. Sadly this seems to be their unspoken mantra lately. Absolutely disgusting!! All the best to the Hartery/Rideout family as I pray you stay in good health and NEVER have to "rely" on the healthcare system again.... Take heed everyone!

  • Lori Hartery
    April 02, 2012 - 21:35

    Sue...I am so very proud of aunt Geraldine's hardworking and getting back to where she is now! You and Heather and your dad fight for her. I hope you get a reply fromEastern Health now!!

    • Mary
      April 03, 2012 - 08:08

      I have aging parents and in-laws and have experienced first hand the lack of care (by some, not all....but even one is too many) and the over-prescribing of medications to keep them unnecessarily sedated. I can honestly say that I wouldn't leave my dog unattended in any of these facilities. I pity the people who have no family to watch over them!!

  • EH guy.
    April 02, 2012 - 13:36

    ROD. It is not only bad but totally dysfunctional. How much longer do we have to put up with it, until government realises its mistake,and cuts it down to the original smaller units. Get people like the old fashioned Matron in place, and administrators who administrate and not simply shuffle papers around from one department to the other (for enormous salaries)!.

  • Mommy's Girl
    April 02, 2012 - 11:14

    People, do not leave your loveed ones in the hospital alone for too long as it looks like you do not care for them. If the staff thinks that you don't care, they won't either. Help the staff, offer advice and suggestions t make sure to get the proper care, but do not be too demanding or they will just ignore you all together. When all else fails, you have to take drastic measures. When my mother was in hospital for six months I had trouble getting the proper care for her, they even refused to give her a breathing mask one night that she was having trouble breathing because they thought it was futile. I fought them, they did and she got better. She then got a lawyer to appoint me as her legal health care decision maker in the event that she was not able to answer for herself. Then, watch out medical staff! Show them that peice of paper and threaten to sue them if you do not get the right care and they will go out of their way to help.

  • Rod Lyver
    April 02, 2012 - 10:56

    How bad is it at Eastern Health? It seems that they are in the news every other day putting out one fire or another.

  • nobody
    April 02, 2012 - 10:38

    She got better care at the Health Science? I'm in and out of the hospital regularly for an issue and I gave up on the health science center. I was brought in from an ambulance extremely dehydrated and sick. The nurses working that night were terrible and don't deserve to take care of toy dolls in a pre-school. They were even making fun of a mentally delayed patient and kept her close to their desk for a laugh while they enjoyed their timmys. Meanwhile ignoring all other patients and waiting to find out what MUN med student was available to come in that night. I'll never go back to the health science unless I'm sedated.

  • Sharon
    April 02, 2012 - 09:40

    Sue, It broke my heart to read this article.I worked with your Mom when she was at Pius X. She was the most caring school secretary that I had ever worked with. Very kind, and compassionate.I am sorry she had to go through all of this..Seniors need advocates when they enter the health system.I went through similiar things with my Mom .You have to question everything and rightfully so. Keep being an advocate for this wonderful lady>

  • Scott Free
    April 02, 2012 - 08:55

    Eastern Health, much like the Dunderdale Cons, is managed by crisis only; once patients take their plight to the media, action is taken; period.

  • JT
    April 02, 2012 - 08:44

    Having no kids of my own, if I live long enough to be Geraldine Hartery’s age, my fear is that I will be under the care of Eastern Health at some point with nobody to advocate for me as Sue Rideout has done for her Mom. Quite honestly, this is terrifying.

  • Penny
    April 02, 2012 - 08:38

    I know how you feel. My Mother would not be here today if we had not slept with her and questioned every medication that she was given. My faith in the health care system is zero!! My Mother was turned into a zombie by the health care system and was even given morphine as a SLEEP MED!! They tried to say that she was having pain, she was NOT in pain. This was used to keep her asleep so she would not be a bother. The stories we could tell. We also put in a complaint. Never got very far. My Mother will never be the same due to one doctor not going against another and the neglect she received while in their care. Morphine is also given without a dr instructions if a nurse wants to write that the patient had pain as a reason. Should never be allowed. It was a nightmare for us and I dread the day we have to ever go back.

    • Taylor
      April 02, 2012 - 10:29

      I have always encouraged my patients and family to question any of their medications. I have also never passed a medicine cup to someone without telling the patients exactly what was in it.

  • mainalnder
    April 02, 2012 - 08:26

    I heard many years ago - and I have no idea if this is true - that healthcare workers hired in Newfoundland (doctors, specialists, etc) do not have their credentials checked and verified. It is the only province that doesn't have this basic background check. Does anyone know if there is any merit to this?

    • Taylor
      April 02, 2012 - 10:25

      Every March 31, my nursing license expires, and I have to show my re-newed licence prior to April 1, 2012, or I would not be allowed to come to work. I ma slo required to show renewal of my CPR certification.

  • Brett
    April 02, 2012 - 08:23

    Maybe comatose patients are easier to take care of than live ones... Also - don't bed rates go up faster for new patients than the rates for people who are in them for 10-20 years? (At least they do in Toronto) I'm not saying that is the case (tongue in cheek) - but the doctor certainly got what he asked for (taking the patient elsewhere if they didn't like his service) - and now that he was proven incorrect, he will have to defend his position. Timely + costly for the whole system. Although they may want to look at other patients of his that are on the same nausea drug.

  • cathy
    April 02, 2012 - 08:02

    sue, your mom is a very lucky woman to have a daughter who is looking after her when she can't speak for herself. kudos to you!

  • Marie
    April 02, 2012 - 07:28

    If that was me I would have asked for a copy of my medical records and if they were not forth coming with them I would then go see a lawyer. You have the right to answers to your questions. Eatern Health has been making to many mistakes these days and something needs to be done. I am just glad none of the mistakes has happened to any one in my family. I am glad that your mother is doing well now despite the mistake made by Eastern Health.

  • Whaddaya At ?
    April 02, 2012 - 07:21

    She's still waiting for a reply from Eastern Health because they don't have all their ducks in a row yet. Eastern Health was asked a simple question: why was a particular drug prescribed for this woman and who ordered it ?. You can be damn sure there's more to this than meets the eye.

  • JT
    April 02, 2012 - 07:18

    My faith in our health care system has continually eroded since the various debacles which have been made known to the public. Stories like this I fear are merely the tip of the iceberg.