Advocates warn of hospital bed rail dangers
Published Saturday, November 24, 2012 9:25PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, November 24, 2012 10:45PM EST
Safety advocates are once again raising the alarm about badly-designed hospital bed rails, following the death of a Nova Scotia senior who died after becoming wedged into his bed.
The 90-year-old Glace Bay, Cape Breton man’s head got stuck in an opening in the side rail and the caregivers at his nursing home couldn’t pull him back out. Rescuers who were called in to help eventually had to use the Jaws of Life to free him.
The man, who hasn't been identified,died a few days later. Though doctors say his death was not directly related to his entrapment, an investigation is underway.
Safety advocates say this is not the first such incident involving bed rails and that bed entrapment is an ongoing concern.
Health Canada has issued warnings about the risk for bed entrapment, most recently in August. It noted there had been at least 12 cases of adults who have become trapped in their beds since 2009. Three died.
In most cases, the victims are seniors, but there have also been cases involving disabled people and those with severe mobility issues. The incidents can be fatal when the victim becomes caught between the rail and the mattress and suffocates.
In the U.S., there have been similar warnings after more than 525 bed rail deaths were reported over a decade.
Stacy Ackroyd, a patient safety scientist at Capital Health and Dalhousie Medical School says many of the incidents involve older beds.
“I don’t think the issue is so much with beds since 2000,” she says.
Health Canada says nursing home and other institutions that use hospital bed with bed rails should contact manufacturers about side rails upgrade kits or covers that have been issued to reduce the risk of bed entrapment.
They say institutions need to also ensure that replacement mattresses are the correct size for the bed frame.
Clara Marshall died five years ago at the age of 81 after suffocating under a bedrail. It was a shock for her daughter Gloria Black. She's now on a campaign to get manufacturer warnings for older beds and mandatory standards for newer beds.
“It's quite an urgent problem that needs to be addressed immediately because the public is not aware of the dangers involved,” she says.
“There need to be strengthened safety designs so that they will not cause injury or death under any circumstance."
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip