Death of woman after 7-hour ER wait ‘not caused by negligence,’ N.S. health authority says

The Nova Scotia Health Authority is requesting that a lawsuit over the death of a patient late last year be dismissed, saying her death was not due to negligence on its part.

The family of Allison Holthoff filed the civil lawsuit last month, alleging the health authority was negligent in failing to meet standards of care.

It also names the attending emergency room physician as a defendant.

Holthoff, a 37-year-old mother of three, died at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre emergency room on New Year’s Eve following a seven-hour wait for care.

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Family of N.S. woman who died after 7-hour ER wait suing health authority

The lawsuit said she reported “extreme pain in the upper left side of her abdomen, laboured breathing and nausea” and died from an untreated splenic artery aneurysm.

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It claimed her husband, Gunter, repeatedly raised concerns about Holthoff’s condition but she remained “largely unattended.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified special, pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. The allegations have not been proven in court.

Read more:

N.S. woman dies after waiting 7 hours in hospital ER, family demands answers

According to a notice of defence filed Feb. 28, the Nova Scotia Health Authority said any injury, loss or damage sustained by the plaintiff “was not caused by negligence” on the part of the health authority, or anyone for whom they are responsible.

“(NSHA) says that any care provided by them to Allison Holthoff was provided reasonably, appropriately and in a manner consistent with the applicable standard of care in the circumstances,” it said.

The notice of defence said the health authority “specifically denies” allegations in one section of the lawsuit, which claims the defendant, as well as its agents and employees, breached their duty of care by:

  • Failing to conduct appropriate testing in a timely manner, and/or overlooked important findings on testing;
  • Failing to adequately triage Holthoff;
  • Failing to rule out possible diagnoses that posed a serious risk to Holthoff;
  • Failing to update or change Holthoff’s triage score as her condition declined;
  • Failing to bring Holthoff’s “urgent and distressed state” to a physician’s attention;
  • Failing to meet the standard of care in supervising and monitoring Holthoff and her symptoms.

The notice of defence did not offer an alternate timeline of events of the night Holthoff died.

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“The Defendant Health Authority puts the Plaintiff to the strict proof of damages,” it said, and requested the action be dismissed with costs.

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