Woman says she was abandoned in ER after miscarriage

Barb Sweet
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WARNING: This story contains disturbing content

A metro area woman says she was forgotten about in the Health  Sciences Centre’s emergency department, suffered a miscarriage in the bathroom and was then left alone in a room for hours to deal with it.
The woman, who did not want her name used, contacted The Telegram after reading a story last week on the national accreditation survey of Eastern Health. Although the health authority scored a 94.2 per cent compliance rate, some problems were flagged, including clogged emergency rooms.

That overcrowding affected the expectant mother last August when, at nine weeks pregnant, she waited in the ER, told a nurse her bleeding and pain was getting worse and finally miscarried in a toilet.

She said she pushed the emergency call button in the bathroom five times, but no one responded.

When the woman finally got the nurse’s attention, it was her understanding the remains would be collected and sent to pathology.

But when she got a meeting with a nursing official days after the incident, she was shocked to find out the nurse she dealt with in the ER that night and a colleague decided it was just blood matter and flushed.

“I really need to know. ... I just wanted to know one person did their job and didn’t flush away what remained of my baby,” she said of asking the manager about the remains.

“To live with that … I am pretty sure that what I saw, I was very confident what I saw that was floating toward the surface was what would have been the head. In their expert opinion it was a blood clot and they flushed it.”

The woman said she arrived at the emergency room around 11 a.m. one weekday in August. On a previous occasion, she had been to the hospital with spotting, was attended to with an ultrasound and told the baby was OK.

The bleeding started again and she went to her family doctor, who recommended bed rest.

However after a couple of days the bleeding picked up and she went back to emergency, where she was triaged.

She said she read a sign in the ER that advised if a patient’s condition changes while they are waiting they should alert staff. The woman told a nurse that her bleeding and pain was getting worse.

In the meantime, the woman desperately needed to use the washroom and the nurse said to go ahead and do so.

“Everything fell out in the toilet,” she said, adding it was around 4 p.m. when the miscarriage occurred.

“I pulled on the help cord five times and nobody ever came.”

After about 10 minutes, she poked her head out of the washroom door and drew the attention of the nurse, who was calling her name as her turn finally came up. That’s when she was told the door would be locked and the remains collected.

She was put in a room and about an hour later housekeeping came to tidy it up and wheel in a gurney.

Eventually a student doctor came in and asked, “What can we do for you today?” and said she looked “a little down.”

The woman asked him if he had even read her file.

“I was just sitting there staring at the wall. I had been left alone for so long at this point,” she said. “And I was just bleeding. I was filthy and I just felt awful. … At this point I was sitting in my own blood. Nobody had offered to give me anything to clean up with.”

She waited for an internal exam and ultrasound but said the doctor appeared to forget about her.

Her husband was looking after their little girl, but she’d been texting him from the hospital and he came to get her.

Finally a obstetrician resident came in and began treating the woman.

“She came in and she was very on the ball,” the woman said.

She asked the resident about the remains, and there wasn’t a record of it, but the doctor suggested the paperwork and the remans may have already gone to pathology.

The woman was referred to an assessment clinic for the next day and went home around 10 p.m.

A few days later, the woman went to see the manager and said she got an apology.

“It was all the lip service you would expect to get from a bureaucrat,” she said.

Eastern Health does not speak to specific cases but said its protocol is that pregnant women of any gestation who have non-pregnancy related complaints will be seen at the emergency department first. However, women who are pregnant and present with pregnancy-related complaints will be admitted to the labour and delivery unit for assessment.

The usual protocol if a woman has a miscarriage in a bathroom is for the fetal remains to be sent to the pathology department for analysis. However, the authority said in an email that if the toilet has been flushed, there are no remains to send to the pathology department unless the placenta is still available.

When a miscarriage occurs, the spokeswoman said emergency department staff can consult the psychiatric nurse on duty to support a patient who is in crisis and there are full-time social work staff in the city ERs.

Patients are also offered the number for its mental health crisis line where support can be provided and a referral made for counselling.



Geographic location: ER

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Recent comments

  • LeeAnna
    November 06, 2013 - 13:23

    I question the statement about the protocol of sending pregnancy related emergencies to the labour and delivery unit. If that is the protocol, it doesn't seem to be the practice. Last fall I attended the ER very early into my pregnancy. Gladly, I was treated with compassion by staff although they admitted that if I was miscarrying, there was little they could do and "nature would take its course." However, at no point was I directed to go up to the L&D unit. The pregnancy was complicated but successful. I believe I was told by my family physician and obstetrician to go to emergency until I was 20 weeks along and to the L&D unit after 20 weeks, the age of viability. I have a lot of empathy for this woman and applaud her courage for coming forward. I wish her peace and healing as she grieves. Eastern Health needs to confirm that their protocol is in fact the practice in the ER and all staff should be sensitive to emotions around pregnancy loss. That "embryo" or "foetus" or "tissue" is someone's baby.

  • Jenna
    November 05, 2013 - 12:04

    This was a miscarriage... not an abortion. The "Baby" was wanted; and yet, the mother was just left to deal with the aftermath..... as if it was no big deal. One thing which always puzzles me in these scenarios: Why is it, if it's a miscarriage it's a "baby" and if it's an abortion it's a fetus?

    • Justin
      November 07, 2013 - 06:09

      An abortion is deliberate, whereas a miscarriage is something that just happens--usually unwanted. A person has to GET an abortion, while they'll unwantedly suffer a miscarriage. I know what you're trying to get at though.

  • Clare
    November 05, 2013 - 10:07

    The abortion mentality truly has infected society. Here, a mother looses her baby to a miscarriage and no one seems to care. The staff equates the baby with nothing more than something to be flushed down the toilet. Then, the staff shows no compassion they are forced into thinking that the loss of a baby though abortion or miscarriage is nothing to be concerned over. This should really challenge some people's way of thinking. My heart goes out to this woman.

  • Bayman
    November 05, 2013 - 09:58

    It is interesting. Such stories are only the tip of the iceberg. The Telegram, it seems, does not like to publish comments which are not complimentary to EH. 94% is a joke to those who know about EH and the Accreditation system.

  • J. Doe
    November 05, 2013 - 09:28

    What many people don't know or understand is that this is pretty much the process that Eastern Health recommends if you have a miscarriage. They will send you home with anti-inflammatories and force you to go through hours or days of pain, and encourage you to "deliver" in the toilet and flush. We were cleaning and disposing of bloody items over the course of a couple of days. THIS IS RECOMMENDED PRACTICE. We have been through it, and it was one of the most horrible, traumatizing events of our lives. We really couldn't believe it wasn't explained better, and covered more in terms of what to expect, and counselling offered. It was treated as very matter-of-fact, which of course it is to them, but the compassion is gone from the system.

  • T
    November 05, 2013 - 08:11

    This is the realism that goes on in our Province . Only we as the public can make change happen. Keep those accountable and make these private matters sound loud to show that all things in the Health Care system are not right. I encourage more to come forward with there stories, there is no shame or dignity left when you are faced with such issues.Be not afraid.

  • Wayne P
    November 05, 2013 - 08:10

    I'm a firm believer in you get what you pay for. In terms of healthcare, we pay nothing (except via taxes) so we get care that is less than the care you would get in a private institution. Two-tiered, my friends. Let's see it.

  • Gerri
    November 05, 2013 - 06:46

    What a travesty for this woman to endure....just one of the many cases of 'abuse' that happens in our so called health 'CARE' system. I know there are many who could also write to tell of good experiences as well, however, shouldn't EVERY patient be treated with the equal care and respect? All PATIENTS are taxpayers and are 'entitled' to receive proper level of care, dignity and respect. If the politicians are not listening to us, verbally, we need to make sure they listen to at the polls!!

    • Concerned as well
      November 05, 2013 - 09:04

      While tragic and emotional, miscarriages do happen to pregnant women and there is nothing anyone can do, especially when so early in the pregnancy, it just happens. Weather she miscarried on the toilet or elsewhere or at home, is immaterial.