Doctors at Moncton Hospital did some detective work to investigate a case of induced labor


A newly released court document reveals the detective work Moncton Hospital officials did to try to determine why the hospital had a high rate of emergency C-sections between 2017 and 2019.

New Brunswick’s Queen’s Bench Court lifted a publication ban last week on an affidavit containing a March 28, 2019 email that described the events from Dr. David Dodge, head of the hospital’s anesthesiology department.

The affidavit was declared inadmissible as evidence at a hearing to determine whether a class action lawsuit can proceed against Horizon Health Network, which runs Moncton Hospital, and labor and delivery nurse Nicole Ruest. In 2020, Crown prosecutors dropped the charges against Ruest, and the allegations in the suit were not proven in court.

According to Dodge’s email, the hospital had seen “an increase in emergency C-sections” over the previous two years. Doctors established in March 2019 that an expectant mother had been given the labor-inducing hormone oxytocin when it had not been prescribed for her.

“Because they were unsure if this was an inadvertent error rather than malicious intent, they decided to remain vigilant for future cases,” Dodge wrote, adding that it was unclear whether a doctor, nurse, respiratory therapist or cleaner could be responsible.

He said that a few days later, another emergency C-section occurred and the IV bag that arrived with the patient was set aside for examination. The lab again confirmed the presence of oxytocin, according to the email.

Oxytocin is given to women to induce labor by causing the uterus to contract. Hospitals have strict policies that require women receiving the hormone to be closely monitored for the adverse effects of sudden contractions, as these can lead to reduced oxygen flow to the baby.

As a result of the lab confirmation of oxytocin, hospital officials viewed hours of surveillance video and observed what they described as “suspicious behavior,” the email says.

The email says they located two IV bags that had small puncture marks and the lab again confirmed the presence of oxytocin in the tampered with bags.

The RCMP was alerted and while watching live video, medics saw a nurse walk out with two IV bags from a utility room where the bags were not stored, according to the email. An emergency C-section was called shortly after and the same nurse was seen disposing of an empty vial of oxytocin, the email says.

The email does not name the nurse, but says she was fired and police investigated. “I’m sure there will be a media storm when the story breaks,” Dodge wrote in the email.

Ruest’s attorney, Andrew Faith, said the court found the affidavit too unreliable to admit as evidence.

“As for our client, her conduct was thoroughly investigated by the RCMP and no charges were ever filed against her,” he said in an emailed statement. “She strongly denies the allegations against her in this lawsuit and she hopes she will have a fair opportunity to answer them in court.”

Virginia Gillmore, an attorney representing the women in the potential class action lawsuit, said she will try to have the email entered into evidence if the case goes to trial.

“Basically what it’s saying is that Horizon knew something was wrong with some deliveries long before they told patients something had gone wrong,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “They realized there was something, maybe a red flag. Even years before, they had a pretty good idea of ​​what was going on. They let it continue.”

The representative plaintiff in the class action lawsuit is Jayde Scott, a mother of twins who had an emergency C-section at Moncton Hospital. Lawyers cannot say how many women could be involved if the action is certified. The action seeks a comprehensive apology and a repair system for the damage caused.

Lawyers for the nurse and Horizon Health wanted the ban on publication of the affidavit to remain in place, but Judge Denise LeBlanc lifted the ban last week.

LeBlanc has been appointed to the New Brunswick Court of Appeals, so a new judge will be appointed to the case and the class action certification process will resume in February 2023.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 6, 2022.

By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.

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