Daughter of 70-year-old who died awaiting emergency care says broken system killed her ‘warrior’ mom

Bonnie Marie Hall was with her 70-year-old mother — Susan Tasson — when she died early Wednesday in a Kamloops, B.C., hospital emergency waiting room after a six-hour wait for care.

Hall says her Ontario-born mother had an infectious laugh and a “warrior” spirit. She had three sons and two daughters, loved her grandchildren and had lived in Kamloops since 1987.

“Nobody wants to die in a waiting room. Nobody,” said Hall.

Hall told CBC that she’s angry, but not at the nurses or doctors of Royal Inland Hospital who rushed to her mother’s side when her pulse began to fade. She’s angry that the health-care system failed her mother and says she wants it fixed.

“This is devastating for me and my family … I’m broken,” said Hall.

Susan Tasson, 70, died in the early morning hours of Sept. 8 in the emergency waiting room at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Submitted by Bonnie Marie Hall)

She is demanding the province provide more support, staff and money for hospitals like Royal Inland.

“I will not blame that hospital. They did everything they were trained to do. The system failed her,” said Hall.

‘Standing room only’

Hall said Tasson was suffering from severe stomach pain when her daughter brought her to Royal Inland Hospital just after 8 p.m. on the evening of Sept. 7.

She said she helped her mother communicate because the senior could not speak due to the pain. Tasson was triaged by hospital staff and her vital signs were taken. After a general assessment, she was sent to a waiting room.

“It was already way too crowded,” said Hall.

Hospitals in B.C. are facing a strain due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Hall said the first waiting room was “standing room only packed” and that she was told later by a hospital administrator that at the time there were only three or four intensive care beds available and three ventilators available for the entire hospital.

She estimated that there were at least 25 people waiting in the first waiting room, but she said that she counted dozens of others in secondary waiting rooms.

Hall said she knew they were in for a wait.

Around midnight, she says, her mother vomited into a hastily-grabbed garbage can which the janitorial staff changed out right away. By early morning, she says, her mom appeared to be starting to fall asleep in her wheelchair. So, Hall says she stood up to provide her mom with some support, as there was nowhere for her to lie down.

“I thought I’m going to stand up and let her lean her head against me.” 

She said she kept checking her mother’s pulse and patting her.

Around 2 a.m., she says, she noticed her mother wasn’t moving normally. Her pulse seemed weak, so she tried to rouse her and called for help. 

Hall said the waiting area erupted. Strangers started pounding on the door and glass to summon help. 

“It was all hands. Everybody in that emergency room tried so hard,” she said. 

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops is on a recruiting drive in the face of a staffing shortage. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

“My mom would have wanted them to know that it was not that hospital — it’s the government. It’s the system. It’s broken. I can’t even describe to you how devastating a moment that was. I was holding her when she went. Those people made sure that I wasn’t alone.”

On Thursday, B.C.’s minister of health said there will be a “full and comprehensive review” of Tasson’s patient care at the Kamloops hospital by Interior Health and a patient care quality review board.

Adrian Dix expressed condolences and urged people to get vaccinated as the high number of cases in intensive care put a strain on hospitals by tying up ICU beds.

Health officials declined further comment, citing privacy reasons.

Keith Hutchison, a doctor in the emergency department of Royal Inland Hospital, said he hasn’t seen wait times this long in his 32 years of work.

“We’re now seeing waits of upwards of four hours in a lot of cases. So that’s not an acceptable length of time. We always say that sooner or later something bad is gonna happen with these kinds of wait-times,” he said.

Hall says she wonders if her mother would have survived, at least long enough to say goodbye, with faster care.

“My mother was a warrior … and her laugh. Oh, her laugh. You were instantly happy when she laughed,” said Hall.

She said that her mother turned any situation into a positive.

“She went peacefully because I was holding her. That, honestly, was her worst fear —dying alone — and she didn’t die alone.”

Tasson, pictured here, is remembered by her family as having an infectious laugh and a ‘warrior’ spirit. (Submitted by Bonnie Marie Hall)

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