ER is the right place to deal with miscarriages: Eastern Health

Barb Sweet
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WARNING: This story contains disturbing content

Eastern Health says the emergency room is the appropriate place for women who are less than 20 weeks pregnant to be seen first, even though patients have expressed dismay at their experiences.
A spokeswoman also noted that the ER has direct access to the main operating room and diagnostic areas.

The Telegram heard this week from several women about their experiences in emergency rooms. Men whose wives had miscarriages also contacted The Telegram. While one woman said she was treated well in the emergency room, the others described lengthy waits and felt staff showed little compassion for the trauma of losing their babies through miscarriage.

Their comments were prompted by Tuesday’s edition of The Telegram, which featured a story on a metro area woman who said she was forgotten about in the Health Sciences Centre emergency department, suffered a miscarriage in the bathroom and was left alone in a room for hours to deal with it.

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

Days later she said she found out a nurse on duty, backed by the opinion of a colleague, made the decision to flush the remains.

Meanwhile, she waited in a room for hours.

Some of those who contacted The Telegram felt the ER isn’t the right place for women to be treated for a miscarriage.

According to Eastern Health policy, women who are less than 20 weeks pregnant are first assessed in the ER; women who are 20 weeks or more along in their pregnancy are sent to the labour and delivery unit for assessment. So are women who don’t know how far along they are. Women, of course, are also advised to go to the ER for issues not related to their pregnancy.

All patients in the emergency room — where cases run the gamut of injuries, viruses, illnesses and trauma — are triaged to ensure the most urgent are seen first.

Eastern Health said a pregnant woman who presents with bleeding needs an assessment to see if it’s related to the pregnancy or not.

“In addition, bleeding and cramping can indicate medical conditions that are better assessed in an area with direct access to the main operating room and diagnostic areas, such as infections or ectopic pregnancies, which are medical emergencies,” the health authority said in an emailed statement.

If immediate obstetrical care is needed, the on-call specialist will see the patient in the emergency room.

If there’s a chance the fetus will survive, the patient would be admitted.

But if unfortunately the fetus is not going to survive, the obstetrical team may decide to admit the woman to the obstetrical unit where bereavement supports will be offered.

None of the women who spoke of bad experiences in the ER with miscarriages said they were admitted.

Eastern Health said it’s continuously reviewing policies, including those related to services for pregnant women.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael brought the issue up in the House of Assembly Wednesday.

“We are hearing in the media about women suffering miscarriages alone after long waits in the Health Sciences ER. I am also hearing from people with other horror stories of ER wait time experiences,” Michael said.

 “Despite the ER wait times strategy released last year, congestion is still an urgent issue, as this year’s Eastern Health accreditation report reveals. I ask the minister of Health and Community Services, how is she going to immediately address the critical ER overcrowding and long wait times?”

 Michael inquired about the progress of a strategy launched in February 2012 to reduce wait times in emergency.

“Mr. Speaker, I want to reference the first part of the statement first of all, and that having to do with the miscarriages that we have read about in the paper. Those are certainly very unfortunate, very emotional issues, and we are very concerned about those, Mr. Speaker,” Health Minister Susan Sullivan replied.

She said the province has put $400,000 into reducing wait times in the emergency departments, including a fast tracking system.

“We are also looking at increased hours of physicians and so on within the emergency departments and other health-care professionals within the emergency departments during times when we know there are peak times,” Sullivan said.

Organizations: The Telegram, Health Sciences Centre, Health Sciences ER Community Services

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Recent comments

  • anonymous
    January 28, 2014 - 16:39

    I have been going back and forth the last few months with kidney problems, I am made to wait in the ER waiting room at times for hours and then when I get inside, usually treated with disdain and indifference. On the floor is completely different, they couldn't be better, but, in the ER, they need to be retrained. There are some good nurses there I will say that, and some very good doctors, but, for the most part the nurses need to be retrained to learn how to triage properly and keep the druggies and drunks waiting while people like me with serious kidney problems, and pregnant women, and people with heart problems are seen first and as quickly as possible.

  • SimilarSufferer
    November 08, 2013 - 09:48

    I suffered a similar scenario back in 2011. At 15 weeks pregnant, I was in excrutiating pain and was bleeding. My husband took me to the ER and we had to sit in the middle of an emergency room full of people for hours before being seen. I was inconsolable, in terrible mental and physical pain and I felt that my public suffering was cruel and unusual. I so wish that I had been able to go to the Case Room - at least there I would have felt some sense of privacy during such a devestating time. I will never forget that experience. On top of it all, when I finally met with the doctor she told me there was nothing they could do for me, besides give me a prescription to help me "eliminate" the pregnacy, and was told to go home and wait it out. I, too, went to the bathroom in the ER before heading home and passed my pregnancy into the toilet. There is no way to describe what happened. You literally walk away from all your hopes and dreams and into an emergency room full of people gawking at you. I get chills when I recount it all.

  • Anom..
    November 07, 2013 - 14:12

    As I was 10 weeks pregnant and started to cramp and bleed I phoned the er asking if I should go in as I was in quite alot of pain and this was a pregnancy right after my first miscarriage. I told theperson on the phone the situation and he replyed to me to not bother coming in , most pregnances end in a miscarriage ( as i already knew) and to flush whatever came out down the toilet. Needless to say in a time I was already heartbroken, him saying this shatterred me. But my first miscarriage after waiting 5 hours, I was admitted and the nurse thatnight was very compassionate. As for the nurse in the morning she was very cold and pushy. Very stern. I dread getting pregnant again, but I dread dealing with the er if anything was to unfortunitly happen again

  • Tim Jamison
    November 07, 2013 - 12:27

    Too bad we can't have HMOs here. I'd pay extra money for better care during pregnancy for my better half, but we have what we have and everyone starts waving the flag mindlessly every time it's questioned, so enjoy. There's only so much money that can be dumped on health care and we're already dumping 40% of total revenue on it and it's still getting more expensive. Keep waving that flag though. That'll make you feel better

  • Wise Up
    November 07, 2013 - 10:33

    See what the abortion mentality has done. It forces people to think that a pre-birth loss is nothing to be mournful over. It has people think the baby is nothing but a lump of cells to be flushed. While not abortions, people seems to treat miscarriages the same way. People should know better. Shame!

  • J
    November 07, 2013 - 09:01

    I think that if you are pregnant and coming into the ER no matter the issue you should be seen right away, that amount of time waiting in the room could be very crucial. I was 18 weeks pregnant throwing up very dehydrated weak and had to sit there for 4 hours to get seen...shouldn't be allowed..

  • Where else?
    November 07, 2013 - 08:13

    Where would these women prefer to have their miscarriages?

    • S Bennett
      November 07, 2013 - 09:14

      Perhaps not in the middle of a crowded emergency room.

    • Jen
      November 07, 2013 - 18:42

      Your comment is awfully must be one of the workers who have treated these poor ladies in the emerg dept. Try putting yourself in their shoes and feel their pain. There should be a unit designated for those under 20 weeks who can help deal with the transition. Or any other issue a pregnant women under 20 weeks may have.

  • Marie
    November 07, 2013 - 07:18

    The er nurses have no clue how to triage at all. I went there with intrnal bleeding and did not see a doctor until 24 hours later while the drug addicts and drunks got seen and gone before me. They are totaly clueless. The doctor and nurses there do not follow policy as this story shows. The ER is for life and death not because you have a headache.