MONCTON, NB — An attorney retained by women who suspect they were improperly given a labor-inducing medication says the number of alleged victims of inappropriate treatment by a Moncton nurse is growing.
Horizon Health Network has publicly confirmed that there were “at least two” pregnant women who had to receive emergency intervention after receiving the medication inappropriately from the registered nurse.
A spokeswoman also said 40 more women had come forward as of Tuesday seeking information from Moncton Hospital about their treatment.
The health agency declined to comment further on Sunday, citing an ongoing criminal investigation by the RCMP.
However, John McKiggan, a Halifax-based medical malpractice attorney, says he and Moncton-based firm Fidelis Law now represent “dozens” of women who suspect they were also treated by the nurse.
The lawyer said that more than two women told him that Moncton Hospital informed them that they were also victims of the nurse’s inappropriate administration of oxytocin.
“I know for a fact that there are more than two because the hospital has told the women that they were victims of this nurse,” McKiggan said, though she said she was unclear on the total number.
It would be shocking if a nurse could have access to oxytocin without a hospital knowing.
Oxytocin is a drug given to women to induce and speed up labor by causing the uterus to contract.
Hospitals typically have strict policies that require pregnant women receiving the drug to be closely monitored for the adverse effects of sudden contractions, as they can lead to reduced oxygen flow to the baby.
“It is a terribly dangerous drug and must be carefully controlled. And it would be shocking if oxytocin could be accessed by a nurse without a hospital knowing, and administered without anyone else knowing,” McKiggan said.
The Halifax-based lawyer says women who were hooked up to an IV and began having strong contractions shortly after receiving the IV have contacted the hospital and his office.
She said the hospital should provide women with more information, as in some cases mothers are not told whether the registered nurse under investigation was involved in their treatment.
The hospital “should acknowledge its responsibility for what happened and offer all the information it can to mothers who were concerned about whether or not they were victimized,” he said in an interview.
“I spoke to a mom this week who called the hospital to try to find out if the nurse involved was part of her labor and delivery team…but the hospital refused to tell her if the nurse was on the team.”
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Horizon Health spokeswoman Emely Poitras referred to The Canadian Press to a comment previously published by the hospital inviting women “who experienced rapid labor” to contact the health agency and discuss their medical concerns.
Moncton Hospital confirmed that the unnamed nurse had been fired after at least two pregnant women allegedly received the drug oxytocin inappropriately.
Dr. Ken Gillespie, the hospital’s chief of staff, said the pregnant women required emergency intervention, but added the mothers and their babies were unharmed.
The RCMP has confirmed that it is investigating the case, but was not available for further comment on Sunday.
Some research has suggested that oxytocin can cause the uterus to rupture, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Horizon Health operates Moncton Hospital and 11 others, along with more than 100 medical facilities and clinics in New Brunswick.