Judy Sark says she still remembers the night her friend Bridget Denny fell out of bed in a Cape Breton hospital.
“I kept on pressing that beep beep beep sound and then when I pressed it nobody came and helped her,” Sark told APTN News. “I kept on saying ‘help somebody fell down’ you know I had to because she was my friend.”
Denny, 65, a residential school survivor, mother of five and grandmother to 15 – was a fluent Mi’kmaw speaker.
She was also an active member of Eskasoni First Nation who died unexpectedly in the hospital on Jan. 20, 2021.
Denny was admitted to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital on Jan. 19 for complications due to her diabetes.
She died the next morning.
Her family found out after the funeral that Denny had fallen in the middle of the night.
An investigation was called under the province’s Protection for Persons in Care Act.
The final report issued on Feb. 25, 2021, concluded the facility failed to provide adequate care.
“The facility failed to provide adequate care based on the lack of documentation … in response to the affected patient’s unwitnessed fall, including failing to document the affected patient’s post fall vitals and post fall assessments firsthand, staff inaccurately completed the affected patient’s admission fall risk assessment and hourly checks, and no documented evidence that post fall neuro vitals and a SIMS report were completed.”
The report also said, “it is beyond the scope of this investigation to determine if this contributed to the affected patient’s death.”
“It was very hard to read the report,” said Jennylee Francis, Denny’s daughter.
“The fall was consistently reported as unwitnessed, therefore, investigators were unable to determine how the fall occurred, and the length of time the affected patient was on the floor,” said the report.
The report said that at around 2 a.m., another patient, “ringing their call bell while standing in the doorway attempting to get the attention of staff saying ‘someone is on the floor in here’ and ‘someone needs help in here.’”
APTN News approached the patient but they did not want to appear on camera.
They told APTN the report by the province left out some details. Although unable to walk, this patient crawled across the floor to call for help.
It’s a detail that Sark told investigators.
“He said ‘Judy is she all right?’ I said ‘I think so she’s holding onto my bed’ and he said ‘nobody’s coming,’ and he crawled he just had a stroke,” she said.
Sark said she felt that investigators were trying to lead her and said she couldn’t possibly have seen the aftermath of the fall because it was too dark.
According to Sark, Denny complained to the staff that she hurt her head.
“Finally the guy came so ‘what are you doing down there?’ he said ‘I’ve fallen, hit my head,’” she said.
APTN put Sark’s allegations to the Nova Scotia department of Seniors and Long-Term Care that investigated Denny’s case.
MaryI Joe Francis, Denny’s daughter in-law, is frustrated.
“That’s the point of everything, not only for the hospital to be held accountable because somebody has to be held accountable for this, but the awareness that this is happening, and it shouldn’t be happening, and that people need to speak up,” said MaryI Joe-Francis, Denny’s daughter in law.
The family has filed a complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons which has ordered an investigation of the case.
The family has also contacted the province’s medical examiner to conduct a private investigation.
“There’s too many stories like ours, there’s too many and there’s a lot of people that never got the help they needed or any sources or proof of anything and since we got this far, we have to keep going,” said Joe-Francis.
So far the family has been struggling to find a lawyer to help them with the case.
“Nobody tells you how to deal with this sort of situation with all of the complaints with all of the investigation, with all of the reports, nobody tells you or guides you that you can do this stuff,” said Francis.
The family has also filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia College of Nurses.