In early May, 78-year-old Joyce Devonshire collapsed and passed away in the entrance foyer of Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH) in Cobourg, Ontario. Her son told Global News that she suffered a heart attack, and speculation has followed the accident. Was a significant hospital error committed?

One would think that a hospital foyer would be the best possible place to experience a serious medical episode: you are surrounded by highly-trained staff who owe you, the patient, a certain standard of care. Unfortunately, witnesses attest that it took between three and five minutes for paramedics to arrive on the scene.

“We arrive there (and) EMS start compressions; they’re trying to perform lifesaving CPR on this woman in the front foyer of a hospital … where is the medical team that’s involved with the hospital,” eyewitness Joeline Cabanaw told Global. “I just felt for that poor woman and her husband who was hovering over her body – helpless.”

Confusion between staff and volunteers appears to have contributed to the hospital error. Volunteers occupy several positions at NHH, including operating the facility’s front desk. These workers are understandably barred from providing care to patients but are encouraged to call in ‘code blue’ alerts when emergencies occur. This action would likely have put Ms. Devonshire in a hospital bed much sooner. The incident has raised important questions about emergency procedures at NHH, and in at Ontario’s hospitals more broadly.

NHH immediately launched an investigation into the hospital error.

“Our internal review of the recent emergency and NHH’s response concluded earlier today,” NHH President and CEO Linda Davis said in a release. “It included interviews with individuals involved or passing through the area when the emergency occurred and a review of NHH’s existing policies and education regarding these policies.”

The review yielded several broad recommendations, such as re-educating volunteers and staff on existing hospital policy on reporting emergencies; instruct volunteers and staff to err on the side of caution when calling emergency codes; instructing volunteers to reach out to closest available staff members when emergencies occur; reminding staff of the need to assists volunteers; conducting regular emergency code exercises; and placing prominent Emergency? Call 5555 stickers on select phones around the campus. The hospital will also preview the processes it has in place regarding emergency preparedness education for both staff and volunteers.

If you or someone you love has suffered a serious injury as a result of a hospital error, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers’ Medical Malpractice Group today to learn how our experienced team can aid your recovery and help you access compensation for your damages.

Greg Neinstein