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N.B. won’t share circumstances, recommendations from multiple ER waiting room deaths

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New Brunswick’s two health authorities won’t share information about the frequency or circumstances of waiting room deaths happening within provincial emergency departments.

The pointed questions continue after repeated reports of waiting room deaths in 2022.

Most information about the incidents has largely been shared by eyewitnesses and family members.

Horizon and Vitalité don’t make a distinction between the number of people who die in a waiting room, and those who die after being admitted into the hospital’s emergency department.

"We do not want to alarm our public and give the impression that every patient who comes to our emergency department will always live,” said interim Horizon CEO Margaret Melanson on Wednesday. “I will tell you that emergency departments do see deaths and mostly all of these deaths are unfortunately unavoidable."

Health Minister Bruce Fitch said he was under the impression that information about emergency department deaths would be made public, making the distinction between deaths occurring in waiting rooms.

“I'd have to ask them exactly why that distinction can't be made," Fitch said Wednesday.

Both Horizon and Vitalité have a number of reviews either completed or ongoing regarding emergency department deaths reported to have happened in waiting rooms.

Neither Melanson, nor Vitalité president France Desrosiers would give a clear answer on Wednesday about whether information from any of those reviews would be made public.

Fitch said possible legal action in the future is preventing any information from being made public.

“I know the families involved have the information,” said Fitch.

Premier Blaine Higgs made a commitment to release findings and recommendations from the review of a patient who died in July, after waiting hours for care at Fredericton’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital.

In November, Higgs reaffirmed his commitment to make findings from the Chalmers review public. Early the next day on Nov. 23, a patient died after waiting hours for urgent care inside the Moncton Hospital’s ER. 

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