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Investigators told patient was in bed at all recorded times

Court stock image.
Court stock image. - 123RF Stock Photo
SYDNEY, N.S. —

SYDNEY — A licensed practical nurse charged in connection with the death of a patient told investigators she was certain the male patient was in his bed at all the times recorded on her charting notes.

Norm MacLeod, employer labour relations manager with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, testified Tuesday that when he interviewed practical nurse Valerie Marie MacGillivary, she admitted she was responsible for the patient and that her notes indicating he was sleeping were correct.

The testimony came during the opening day of a provincial court trial date for MacGillivary, 48, of Glace Bay who is charged with using a forged document (check sheets and nursing flow sheets), as if genuine.

Also charged is registered nurse Tammy Mary-Rose Carrigan-Warner, 43, of Sydney River. The trial for Carrigan-Warner has been completed and a verdict is expected April 28. MacGillivary was called to testify by the Crown at Carrigan-Warner’s trial and Carrigan-Warner is also expected to give evidence in the MacGillivary trial.

The charge flows from the Feb. 23, 2018 death of 79-year-old Colin Francis MacDonald, of Grand Mira North, whose body was discovered on a walking bridge in the rear parking lot of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. The cause of death was determined to be hypothermia.

MacDonald was a patient on Unit 4C – a secure unit - for about three months. The unit is for patients who have suffered strokes and those with mental health concerns. MacDonald, who was diagnosed with dementia, was awaiting transfer to a long-term care facility.

Video surveillance from the hospital, played during both trials, shows MacDonald leaving the facility at 12:35 a.m. through an emergency exit door, walking through the hospital’s back entrance and into the parking lot. His remains were recovered on a walking bridge in the rear parking lot at 4 a.m.

MacGillivary’s nursing notes indicate that at 10 p.m. on Feb. 22, MacDonald was slightly agitated.

At 11 p.m., MacGillivary recorded that MacDonald was in bed, eyes closed.

At 12:45 a.m., MacGillivary recorded that MacDonald was in bed, eyes closed and resting comfortably. The video surveillance tape indicates MacDonald had already left the unit and was out in the rear parking lot.

Nursing notes at 1:15 a.m. and 2:15 a.m. also indicate MacDonald as being in his bed and asleep.

MacLeod said he interviewed MacGillivary on Feb. 26 during which he reviewed her notes, asked her questions but never told her he had already reviewed the video tape. He also interviewed Carrigan-Warner the same day.

“We wanted to hear specifically what they did on that shift,” said MacLeod.

He said after reviewing the video, nursing notes and interviewing both MacGillivary and Carrigan-Warner, it was decided that both women should be fired.

When questioned by defence lawyer Tony Mozvik, MacLeod said he did not interview any other staff working on the unit the night nor did he follow up on information provided by both women of another patient on the unit who had a tendency to wander and would sometimes ended up in another patient’s bed.

“There was no evidence I had seen that he wandered into Mr. MacDonald’s room,” said MacLeod.

MacLeod also did not investigate the fact that the alarmed fire doors on the unit were not working properly and that when MacDonald pushed open the doors to leave the unit, no alarm sounded.

MacLeod said others investigated that matter but as far as he knew, no one was ever disciplined.

Tom MacNeil, NSHA’s director of occupational health and wellness, testified that the two doors and alarm were first checked by on-site maintenance and then an electrician but nothing was clearly identified as causing the problem. He said the doors were repaired.

He said despite a clean 18-year work record for MacGillivary, he made the decision to fire her.

“I was not accepting she made a mistake,” said MacNeil.

Stephanie O’Neill, the former director of Unit 4C, told the court Tuesday that there is no formal hospital policy when it comes to charting notes.

She said nurses have individual habits when it comes to filling out the patient charts. She said it is expected the notes would be completed as soon as possible but admitted it would not be uncommon for some notes to be hours later.

The trial, presided over by Judge Diane McGrath will continue today.

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