Class-action lawsuit filed against N.B. hospital
Published Thursday, April 11, 2019 10:11AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 12, 2019 7:57AM EDT
Lawyers representing women who suspect they were given a labour-inducing drug without their consent announced they have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the New Brunswick hospital where they were treated.
Last month, Horizon Health Network confirmed a registered nurse at the Moncton Hospital had been fired after an internal investigation uncovered “strong evidence” she had secretly given the drug oxytocin to at least two patients, who later underwent emergency C-sections.
The nurse is accused of puncturing patients’ IV bags and spiking them with oxytocin without their doctors’ knowledge. Oxytocin is often given to pregnant women to induce labour, but it can cause rapid contractions and affect fetal heart rate if it’s administered improperly.
RCMP confirmed they are investigating the two cases.
In early April, a spokesperson for the Horizon Health Network said they had received inquiries from 40 more women questioning the treatment they received at the hospital while they were pregnant.
During a press conference in Moncton on Thursday morning, John McKiggan, a medical malpractice lawyer based in Halifax, and his co-counsel Mathieu Picard, a lawyer for Fidelis Law / Droit, announced they had filed a class-action lawsuit.
McKiggan said the lawsuit against the Horizon Health Network was on behalf of Jayde Scott, the representative plaintiff in the proposed suit, and “every mother and child who was injured as a result of the care that they received” from the fired nurse.
“In Jayde’s case, we believe that the circumstances of her labour and delivery were impacted by the activities by one of the nurses who was entrusted with her care,” he said.
The class-action lawsuit names Horizon Health Network and Nicole Ruest, a divorced mother of two, as defendants in the suit.
None of the allegations against Ruest and the hospital have been proven in court. RCMP have not laid any charges in the case and the investigation is still ongoing.
McKiggan said Ruest was employed by the health authority for at least 15 years. He said she worked at several facilities with the Horizon Health Network and not just for the Moncton Hospital.
The class-action lawsuit will cover those 15 years, McKiggan said. However, that period can be changed depending on what information they receive, he said.
When asked how many people were represented in the claim, McKiggan replied “we have no idea.” He said the nurse was employed as a nurse for more than a decade and likely involved in hundreds of deliveries, which means there could be hundreds of plaintiffs.
“The actual class remains to be seen because it really depends on the evidence we have to determine how many people may have been injured as a result of her conduct,” he said.
McKiggan said the onus is on the hospital to let patients know if they were treated by the fired nurse.
“The hospital has a record of every single labour and delivery that happened in the hospital. Every single labour and delivery she was involved in,” he said. “I think they have an obligation to reach out to these people.”
The lawsuit states authorities at the Moncton Hospital knew or should have known about the nurse’s alleged conduct.
“Our pleadings indicate that the hospital knew or should have known what was going on and Jade was injured and went through this terrible experience, despite the fact that the hospital knew or should have known what was going on,” McKiggan said.
The lawyer said a civil class-action lawsuit will allow details of the case to become public.
“We’re going to be able to explore what did the hospital know? When did they know it? How could they have let this go on for so long? Why did they not take action sooner? That’s something that likely would never come out in a criminal investigation,” he said.
Standing before reporters, Scott said the hospital told her she was improperly given oxytocin before she received an emergency C-section the day after she gave birth. She gave birth to her twins on March 27, the same day the hospital contacted RCMP about the nurse, according to the lawsuit.
Scott said she was “overwhelmed, scared, traumatized” when she learned of the news.
“I didn’t get to meet my girls right away. I was put unconscious so it’s supposed to be an exciting moment and that was robbed,” she said.
The 26-year-old mother also encouraged other potential victims to come forward and share their stories.
“I think it’s really important that any mom who was affected, such as I was, to come forward and explain how you’re feeling and know that this isn’t right,” she said with her voice breaking. “It was just extremely traumatizing so my heart goes out to all the other mothers who were affected.”