When Bianca Beauregard got a call last Friday that her sister was in a Winnipeg hospital following an overdose and wasn’t expected to survive, she says she was hysterical.
But hours later, after family members — including another of the woman’s sisters and the woman’s 12-year-old daughter — visited Health Sciences Centre to say goodbye, they discovered the woman on life support there wasn’t their loved one.
“My sister, she was saying goodbye and my family was in there doing a prayer, and she went to go hold my sister’s hand and [the woman] had none of the same tattoos that my sister had,” said Beauregard, who lives in Lethbridge, Alta. Beauregard said she received a number of calls from the hospital that day because she’s her sister’s next-of-kin.
She said her family then started showing hospital staff pictures to prove the patient wasn’t who they thought it was. Beauregard was listening by phone as the situation unfolded, she said.
“I could hear them in the background and they’re like, they sounded panicked. HSC sounded panicked.”
Now Beauregard is questioning how this happened in the first place.
A spokesperson for Shared Health said in an email they “regret that this error caused pain for both affected families.”
Staff were given wrong name: Shared Health
The statement said when unconscious patients brought to the emergency department, the majority of their identities are confirmed before they’re admitted through identification documents or through information gathered from other people before transport.
“That information is provided to hospital staff upon arrival and used to contact next-of-kin,” the spokesperson said. “We can confirm that in this unfortunate instance, an incorrect patient name was provided to hospital staff.”
Shared Health said if a patient is unidentified when they arrive, staff will reach out to “external agencies” to help identify them.
Beauregard wants to see stricter protocols in place to ensure this doesn’t happen to another family.
“I want to see the hospital be held accountable for their actions,” said Beauregard.
She said her family had been told the woman arrived at the hospital at around 5 a.m., and that the person who called the ambulance identified the patient as her sister.
“All they solely went off of was the person who called 911,” said Beauregard.
“I was relieved that it was not my sister but I’m still … upset and I’m still angry because, like, I was devastated. We were all devastated. Her daughter was in the room thinking that was her mom that was going to pass that night.”
12-year-old thought her mom was dying
Negasi Michell said while he’s no longer involved with Beauregard’s sister, they share a 12-year-old daughter. He was also contacted by a social worker Friday afternoon, he said.
“I kind of prepared myself to tell my daughter ’cause I knew she was going to be crushed,” said Michell.
He was at the hospital with his daughter when the mistaken identity was discovered. His daughter was confused, he said.
“It just felt really surreal how this was all happening,” he said. “My daughter was, like, devastated and then [to] find out it wasn’t her it was like relief, but at the same time, like, I don’t like that she had to go through all that.”
Michell said while he thought the woman only kind of looked like his former partner, he didn’t question her identity at first because he figured she must not look like herself after everything she’d been through medically.
He said neither he or his daughter had seen her mother recently.
Beauregard’s family managed to get in touch with her sister over the weekend, and they now know she’s OK.
“We’re relieved that my sister is still here with us,” she said, but she feels terribly for the family of the other woman.