MONCTON, N.B. — The New Brunswick Nurses Union says allegations that a nurse inappropriately administered a labour-inducing drug to pregnant women are concerning, but it is obliged to offer legal assistance in respect to her firing.
Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, said they were told last week one of their members was fired after allegations that a nurse at the Moncton Hospital had given two women oxytocin.
She said in a release that any time there are allegations of potential harm to patients or compromise to patient safety, they are “very concerned and empathetic for all those involved — the patients, the families and the staff.”
Doucet says under the language of the collective agreement, the union must assist any member who is fired and requests legal representation before the Nurses Association of New Brunswick.
However, she said the union wouldn’t represent the nurse in a criminal matter, which is possible if an ongoing RCMP investigation leads to charges in the case.
Dr. Ken Gillespie, chief of staff at the Moncton Hospital, has said the pregnant women who received oxytocin required emergency intervention after receiving the drug.
Both of the mothers required urgent C-sections after receiving the drug, and the staff and physicians responded immediately.
The hospital launched an internal investigation which led to the dismissal of the nurse and notification of the RCMP.
Both patients and their families have been notified, and the mothers and babies involved are reported to be doing well.
Oxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone that causes contractions of the uterus, speeds up labour and can help control post-delivery bleeding. Its usage, however, requires close monitoring because it can, among other things, affect the fetal heart rate.
“Labour can progress too quickly, causing contractions to become difficult to manage without pain medication,” according to the American Pregnancy Association. “Oxytocin may need to be discontinued if contractions become too powerful and close together.”
Other research indicates the drug can cause the uterus to tear, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Gillespie has apologized on behalf of the Horizon Health Network.
The health authority operates the Moncton Hospital and 11 others, along with more than 100 medical facilities and clinics in New Brunswick.
The RCMP has declined to provide further details on the case, other than to say their investigation is ongoing.
The Canadian Press