Premier Tim Houston says a quality review by Nova Scotia Health into the circumstances surrounding the death of 37-year-old Allison Holthoff at the emergency department of the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre will be shared with her husband, Gunter, and her family.

On Wednesday, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the independent MLA for Cumberland North, told reporters she understood only the recommendations from the review would be shared with the family.  

On Thursday, Houston told reporters that was not correct.  

“My understanding is that the family would see the full report and have a full discussion of the findings of the review,” Houston said in response to a question from the Halifax Examiner.  

Nova Scotia Health has confirmed an expert from outside the organization* will be part of the review, which is triggered automatically when a patient dies unexpectedly. Holthoff arrived at the emergency department with severe abdominal pains and was not seen by a doctor for almost seven hours.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Michelle Thompson announced a series of changes aimed at adding more staff to waiting rooms at emergency departments across the province and diverting less urgent patients to collaborative care clinics and virtual care. 

Concerns around sharing patient information

Houston was asked how much information from the review of Holthoff’s death will be made available to the general public. 

“We will share what we possibly can on the findings of the review,” Houston said. “We do have concerns around maintaining the privacy of a patient’s medical information. Whatever we can share we will share. My understanding at this point is, at a minimum, the recommendations,” Houston said.

“We know the trauma this experience has caused the family, the community, the people working in health care, and the province, and to some degree at the national level, so we want to share what we can.”  

* As originally published, that article incorrectly stated that the person would be hired from outside the province; rather, that person will be from outside Nova Scotia Health.

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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