A woman in Canada has died after waiting for almost seven hours for emergency care at a hospital on New Year’s Eve in what has been described as a “senseless death”.
Allison Holthoff, 37, of the Province of Nova Scotia, was rushed to the emergency room the morning of December 31 after her condition worsened from what was initially believed to be an upset stomach.
Her husband, Gunter Holthoff, told CBS News she had to be carried on her back to reach the Cumberland Regional Health Care Center in the Nova Scotia city of Amherst at 11 a.m. local time before spending hours in the waiting room.
“Obviously she was in pain,” he said Sunday, recalling his wife’s excruciating pain and ordeal. He “was rolling her in the wheelchair and she could barely sit up.”
Ms. Holthoff’s pain worsened as the two waited for more than six hours in the emergency department waiting room. They were only able to see a doctor after 6 p.m., she said.
By then, the doctor said, it was too late. She underwent a preliminary examination and the nurse asked for a urine sample.
Ms. Holthoff then fell to the bathroom floor because she was unable to stand on her own and required the help of two other people to get back into her wheelchair.
Her condition deteriorated to the point where she was unable to sit in her wheelchair and ended up lying on the ground, she said.
“I told the nurses and the lady at the desk a couple of times, ‘It’s getting worse,’ and nothing happened,” Holthoff said. “So the security guards eventually brought out a couple of blankets and brought us a cup of water and I used it to put some ice on her lips.”
As they continued to wait, Mrs. Holthoff told her husband that she felt like she was dying.
“I think he actually started to say that he thought he was dying in the waiting room outside,” Gunter continued. “She said, ‘I think I’m dying. Don’t let me die here.’”
His wife was then taken to a room with a bed, but no medical equipment. A nurse checked her blood pressure and discovered that she was alarmingly low.
She then received more urgent care and a doctor came to see her. She prepared an X-ray, but she couldn’t breathe.
“The next is [her] her eyes rolled back in her head and her chest began to rise. Something started to go off,” she said. “Next thing you hear about the PA, ‘code blue, code blue on X-rays.'”
“Even if she had survived at that point…she had too much time without sufficient blood flow to the brain and vital organs. It would not have been a life worth living,” she said.
Holthoff said the system is “obviously broken” and “we need a change” as “I don’t want anyone else to go through this.”
Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, a local MLA, wrote a letter to the provincial health minister demanding an “urgent investigation” into the case.
Alexandra Rose, provincial coordinator for the Nova Scotia Health Coalition, said the situation is frightening and the province’s health system is in “dire straits.”
“It’s so scary. And we have to ask ourselves, when is the breaking point? Is this the breaking point now that someone has passed away? It was a senseless death,” he said.