Peakes woman loses her baby, dignity while awaiting hospital treatment

Christine Handrahan describes hours of tension in emergency room

Wayne Thibodeau wthibodeau@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on July 29, 2010
Michael and Christine Handrahan say they’ve lost all faith in Prince Edward Island’s largest referral hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. Handrahan had a miscarriage in front of a packed waiting room while she waited more than three hours to see a doctor.
Guardian photo by Nathan Rochford

Losing her first baby was devastating enough but having to do it in a crowded waiting room is what angered Christine Handrahan the most.

The 29-year-old Peakes woman was nine weeks pregnant when on July 12 she started bleeding.

Fearing the worst, Handrahan and her husband, Michael, headed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s new emergency room.

There she waited more than three hours, blood seeping out of her jeans, tears rolling down her face as she feared she was losing her baby — or that she might be bleeding to death.

Still, she waited and waited.

More than three hours passed before Michael had enough.

Only one patient had gone through the big glass doors to see a doctor so he knew the wait was going to be extensive.

Michael helped his wife out of a wheelchair into his truck and they made the 45-minute drive to Prince County Hospital in Summerside. There she was immediately rushed into the hospital’s emergency room where the mother-to-be was told that she had a miscarriage.

“What bothered me the most was the fact that I had to sit in public going through a miscarriage — in public,” Handrahan said.

 

“Somebody should have cared enough to say ‘Oh my goodness, you’re going through a miscarriage, do you need some quiet time?’ I was fighting my tears. I wanted a place to go cry,” CHRISTINE HANDRAHAN

“It’s emotional. It’s such an emotional time for anybody. We tried for a couple of years to conceive a child and then to lose it. It was horrifying.”

Handrahan says nobody at the hospital showed her any compassion.

“They could have given me a room to go in. Not necessarily a room with a bed. Even if it had been their TV room, or their lunchroom, or their closet. That waiting room was jam packed full of people.

“Somebody should have cared enough to say ‘Oh my goodness, you’re going through a miscarriage, do you need some quiet time?’ I was fighting my tears. I wanted a place to go cry.”

Officials at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital have launched a full investigation into what happened to Handrahan.

Rick Adams, the executive director of the hospital, cancelled an afternoon of meetings to talk to the Handrahans and to offer an apology.

Adams is on holidays this week, but Dr. Rosemary Henderson, the acting executive director, confirms an investigation is underway.

The medical director, the nurse manager and a quality and risk management team will lead the investigation.

“The sort of things we’re looking at is, was she triaged appropriately?” said Henderson.

“And whether or not she was seen in a reasonable time frame and there are certain guidelines . . . and I won’t pussy foot around it we do have trouble meeting those guidelines at times.”

 

“Somebody should have cared enough to say ‘Oh my goodness, you’re going through a miscarriage, do you need some quiet time?’ I was fighting my tears. I wanted a place to go cry,” CHRISTINE HANDRAHAN

 

Henderson would not answer the question about whether it was appropriate for Handrahan to have her miscarriage in the hospital’s waiting room.

That, she said, will have to wait until the investigation is complete.

Health Minister Carolyn Bertram maintains safety is not being compromised at the Charlottetown hospital.

“I certainly do not want to talk about an individual case but I certainly feel for a case such as this, . . . but our officials are investigating this matter,” said Bertram.

Handrahan, who works at a vet clinic, said she has never seen an animal being treated like she was treated at the province’s largest referral hospital. She came forward with her story in hopes nobody will ever have to go through what she went through again.

Her husband, Michael, 31, agrees. He said he went to the nurse’s station twice, pleading with them to see his wife.

“The first time, she said ‘we’re very busy’ and they’d get to her as soon as possible,” Michael said.

“I knew we were going to have to wait. But what pissed me off is they didn’t take her in when we got there, clean her up, and see what was going on.”

Patients the Handrahans talked to while they were at the emergency department said they had waited 12 to14 hours.

Handrahan said she remains angry at the hospital and traumatized by the whole situation.

If she ever needs medical attention in the future, Handrahan said she will go to Summerside.

She did receive an apology from one of the nurses in the emergency department but it was too little too late, she said.

“She came over and she apologized to me, and she said ‘I just wanted to tell you that it’s not that we don’t care,’” Handrahan recounts.

“I remember telling her that I realized tonight how cruel this world really is.”

 

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