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Judge reserves decision in case of death of elderly patient

Court stock image.
Court stock image. - 123RF Stock Photo

SYDNEY — A verdict in the case of a Cape Breton licensed practical nurse charged with using a forged document is now expected April 15.

After hearing closing arguments in the case Thursday, provincial court Judge Diane McGrath reserved decision in the case of Valerie Marie MacGillivary, 49, of Glace Bay until April.

MacGillivary and registered nurse Tammy Carrigan-Warner, 43, of Sydney River, were charged separately with using a forged document (check sheets and nursing flow sheets), as if genuine. The charge was filed in relation to the death Feb. 23, 2018 of 79-year-old Colin Francis MacDonald, 79, of Grand Mira North.

The cause of death was determined to be hypothermia.

A verdict for Carrigan-Warner is expected April 28.

MacDonald was a patient on Unit 4C at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and had been a patient for about three months while awaiting a transfer to a long-term care facility.

The unit is for patients who have suffered strokes and those with mental health concerns. MacDonald had been diagnosed with dementia.

Hospital security video played during both trials shows MacDonald leaving through the hospital’s rear entrance and into the parking lot.

He was discovered nearly four hours later curled up on the ground on a walking bridge.

MacDonald was MacGillivary’s patient on the night he walked away.

In order to leave the unit, patients, staff and visitors either need to know a pass code for the secure door or have someone at the nursing station push an access button to open the door.

MacDonald is believed to have left the unit through fire doors which were to sound an alarm when opened. The alarm was not working at the time MacDonald left. It has since been repaired.

In his final summation to the court, defence lawyer Tony Mozvik suggested the Crown has failed to prove that his client filed charting notes that were wrong and that she knowingly filed false reports.

Both MacGillivary and Carrigan-Warner testified to seeing a body in MacDonald’s bed at the times noted on their flow charts and Mozvik said the Crown has not introduced any evidence to counter that claim.

“When you look at the burden of proof, there is no evidence she (MacGillivary) misled anyone,” he said.

Prosecutor Rochelle Palmer said MacGillivary did falsify documents which were intended to be relied on.

She said MacGillivary filed the false charting notes to cover the fact she hadn’t done hourly bed checks and that she knew MacDonald was not in his bed.

The trials for both accused heard testimony from similar witnesses. The accused were fired from their positions three days after MacDonald slipped out of the facility. MacGillivary had worked at the regional hospital for 18 years while Carrigan-Warner was working as a nurse for 10 years.

Both accused testified there was a male asleep in MacDonald’s bed during the times recorded on their charting notes. Both said the patient was sleeping on their side and had the bed covers pulled up to their nose. Both noted the patient’s eyes were closed and appeared to be resting comfortably.

They also testified about another patient who had only been admitted to the unit two days before MacDonald walked away. The patient was known to wander the hallways and on at least one occasion, attempted to get into the bed of another patient before being redirected back to his room.

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