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Canadian dies in emergency room after waiting seven hours; husband says she was 'neglected'

A Canadian woman has died after waiting seven hours in the emergency room, with her family blaming complications and deficiencies in the country’s health care system for the death.

“I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family of the patient who died at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre,” Canadian Health and Welfare Minister Michelle Thompson wrote in a statement released on Monday. “This is a tragic loss and my heart goes out to them. I understand they want answers.

“Nova Scotia Health has initiated an investigation, known as a quality review, in this case to determine what happened, how we can do better and what we can do to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Allison Holthoff, 37, went to the hospital after complaining she wasn’t feeling well on New Year’s Eve. She told the family that she had pain in her abdomen that continued to increase over time.

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Holthoff’s husband, Gunter, took her to the hospital when her condition worsened. She waited seven hours for someone to attend to her, but she ended up dying. Gunter told reporters on Monday that he still did not know the cause of his wife’s death.

Allison Holthoff with her horse, which she fell off in September 2022, resulting in months of chronic pain that only got worse over time.

Allison Holthoff with her horse, which she fell off in September 2022, resulting in months of chronic pain that only got worse over time.
(Ali Holthoff/Facebook)

“Sadly, I feel like she was neglected and it got to the point where they couldn’t ignore us anymore,” Gunter told a news conference. “It was a terrible situation for my wife, my children and many people in the community. I am just lost.”

Gunter told reporters that his wife fell from a horse in September and complained of pain for months afterward. He said it was “difficult times” for his wife.

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He found her lying in the hallway on New Year’s Eve after she tried to ease the pain by taking a shower.

The couple waited in a makeshift waiting room in the hospital lobby after completing triage around 11:20 am. Holthoff didn’t enter the exam room until 3:00 pm, with the pain intensifying over the successive hours.

Allison Holthoff died on New Year's Eve after a seven-hour wait in an emergency room.

Allison Holthoff died on New Year’s Eve after a seven-hour wait in an emergency room.
(Ali Holthoff/Facebook)

Medical staff took blood and urine samples during the seven-hour wait, with a nurse asking near the end if Holthoff was “always like this” upon seeing his extreme pain. Holthoff began screaming in pain around 6 pm as medical staff prepped her for an X-ray.

Doctors and nurses resuscitated Holthoff three times before determining that they had a “[1%] chance of keeping her alive” and would not have the surgery. A doctor told Gunter that his wife had suffered internal bleeding, but could not determine the source.

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Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, a member of the Nova Scotia Assembly, hosted the press conference and outlined a seven-point plan to handle the situation, CTV News reported.

Allison Holthoff, 37, died at a hospital after waiting seven hours in a makeshift emergency room.  Her husband said he felt she had been neglected by hospital staff.  (Ali Holthoff/Facebook)

Allison Holthoff, 37, died at a hospital after waiting seven hours in a makeshift emergency room. Her husband said he felt she had been neglected by hospital staff. (Ali Holthoff/Facebook)

In a letter to Thompson, Smith-McCrossin urged Emergency Health Services to place “a dedicated health professional in the temporary/interim waiting room” to “monitor and provide ongoing medical assessment of people waiting to see the emergency room doctor.” -relief”.

She also suggested renovations to the main emergency room, a dedicated counselor to care for the families of deceased patients, improving ER staffing levels, and publicly listing ER wait times, among other measures.

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Smith-McCrossin said Gunter has been “a hero” for his handling of his wife’s death. Holthoff’s family buried her on Saturday.

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