POLITICS

Winnipeg woman died after being released from emergency room: son

06/11/2012 04:19 EDT | Updated 08/11/2012 05:12 EDT
WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg senior died after an emergency room doctor failed to find an infection and sent her home filled with morphine, her family says.

"It was pretty obvious to us that this was just a temporary patch for her pain. You can't continue to take morphine all day long," David MacKay said Monday.

MacKay's mother, Frances, died Dec. 15 after suffering extreme pain in her lower back. The 71-year-old was a dialysis patient and started suffering agonizing pain in October.

McKay and his sister took the senior to the emergency room at Seven Oaks Hospital so she could be examined. But he said that didn't happen.

"They gave her morphine ... and that immediately calmed her down and she got more comfortable," McKay said.

Once the pain killers kicked in, the emergency room's attending doctor said it was time for the woman to be sent home. McKay said he asked what was causing the pain.

"(The doctor) essentially said to me 'I'm sorry, but it's not our job to make that diagnosis. Our job is to stabilize the patient and release her from the emergency department.' I said 'that's ludicrous.'"

His mother was sent home and referred to the pain clinic at the Health Sciences Centre.

A few weeks later, the family took her to emergency at the St. Boniface General Hospital, where a thorough examination was done.

It was then that doctors found a bone infection on the base of her spine, McKay said.

The infection was treated with antibiotics, but McKay said it was too late. His mother died two weeks later.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives raised the case in the legislature Monday, demanding a full investigation. NDP Health Minister Theresa Oswald said she had not heard of the incident, but promised to look into it.

"I'm keenly interested in getting to the bottom of the details of the journey that this particular patient was on and what, if anything, could have been done to alter the outcome," Oswald told reporters.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it was investigating the matter as well.

"We want to assure (the family) that we will thoroughly investigate this case and let them know what we find out. And that, as part of that process, they will be contacted by a member of our staff," Heidi Graham, a spokesperson for the authority, said in a emailed statement.

Five months after Frances MacKay's death, the pain clinic mailed her a questionnaire asking her to answer questions in order to help develop a pain management plan.