POLITICS

Coroner's inquest jury into 18-year-old's death makes no mention of ER closures

12/22/2011 07:34 EST | Updated 02/21/2012 05:12 EST
WELLAND, Ont. - A coroner's inquest jury examining the car crash death of a young woman has issued 27 recommendations, but notably absent is any mention of the controversy that led to the inquest in the first place.

The inquest into the death of Reilly Anzovino was called after her family and community members raised concerns that the closure of two Niagara-area emergency rooms played a role.

Anzovino, 18, was pronounced dead shortly after paramedics got her to hospital in the early hours of Dec. 27, 2009, following a car crash on icy roads. The crash occurred on rural Highway 3, almost exactly halfway between two hospitals in Fort Erie and Port Colborne, Ont.

However, emergency rooms at both hospitals had been closed, and paramedics were forced to make the longer drive to Welland, Ont.

Throughout the inquest, which began on Oct. 31, the jury heard from various witnesses that Welland Hospital would have been better able to treat Anzovino's traumatic injuries even if the two ERs hadn't been converted to urgent care centres.

The jury made no recommendations about the ERs.

They made several recommendations directed at paramedics and the guidelines under which they operate regarding timely patient care in trauma situations. The jury also recommended the Niagara Health System look into concentrating resources and trauma patients at one of their many hospital sites in the area.

Another recommendation that's getting some attention is directed at Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, who also serves as member of Parliament for Niagara Falls, Ont.

The inquest jury recommended he review s. 254(2) of the Criminal Code, which says officers may require a driver to provide a breath sample or perform a physical co-ordination test if they have "reasonable grounds" to suspect alcohol or drug consumption.

The jury wants the minister to consider replacing "reasonable grounds" with "any grounds," which they said could assist in promoting road safety.

Police detected a faint odour of alcohol on the breath that night of the car's driver, Anzovino's childhood friend Molly Fairgrieve, but did not ask her to submit to a breathalyzer.

The jury also suggested Niagara Emergency Medical Services conduct a feasibility study on the possibility of installing video and/or sound equipment in ambulances so quality of care could be better reviewed.

Anzovino's death and the circumstances surrounding it became an election issue in the fall provincial campaign, with both the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives pledging to re-open the shuttered ERs.

"Reilly Anzovino was one example of the tragedy that occurs when you take away people's access to health care," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said at a September campaign event attended by the Anzovino family.

— By Allison Jones in Toronto, with files from CKTB