After Moncton Hospital allegations, renewed calls for patient advocate

There are renewed calls for an independent patient advocate in New Brunswick after a nurse was recently fired for allegedly inappropriately administering Oxytocin to pregnant women.

A proposed class action lawsuit has been launched against Nicole Ruest and Horizon Health.

The RCMP are investigating the matter.

But some say patients need other avenues to register complaints and concerns.

Kate Macdonald runs the website, the Complaint Doula, and helps people navigate the system when they feel they’ve been wrongly treated. (submitted)

“Patients need to know that stuff like this can happen,” said Kate Macdonald, a patient advocate in Toronto.

“So if they feel like part of their care was disrespectful or coercive or abusive, or if they felt like things were done to them without their full informed consent, then they should be feeling empowered to speak up about that,” Macdonald said.

She’s invited women in Moncton to share their stories on a forum she runs. Macdonald started the forum, The Complaint Doula, after experiencing what she calls “obstetric violence.”

As a self-proclaimed “complaint doula,” she helps people navigate the complaint system.

The alleged Moncton case is “an extreme example,” she said. “But it’s really common, especially in childbirth, for care providers to feel like they don’t need to get consent from their patients.”

Renewed calls

Green Party Leader David Coon says New Brunswick needs an independent body to investigate patient complaints. (CBC)

New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon said he often gets calls to his office from people who have concerns about the care they received in the province’s hospitals.

“We’ve got to put in place some kind of independent mechanism for people to turn to,” he said.

The experience in Moncton reinforces that, he said.

There is a patient advocate system at Horizon Health and complaints can be made to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

But Coon said he’d like to see an independent body available to take people’s complaints.

“It would mean that those within the health system wouldn’t be investigating themselves. And that’s what we really need.”

Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said the minister, Ted Flemming, is open to discussing the matter. 

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