Family blames hospital and province for death of Vaughan woman

Source: Toronto Star

Author: Amy Dempsey

One Sunday two years ago, Laiq and Badrunnisa Khurshid set out for a midnight stroll. The couple walked hand in hand through their suburban Vaughan neighbourhood, chatting about their children, reflecting on life.

Their son had just bought a new home in Mississauga, their eldest daughter was about to have her second child, their younger children were doing well in university. And they all lived close enough to each other that family gatherings were a weekly event.

How lucky we are, Laiq said to his wife.

The next day, Badrunnisa woke up with a headache and nausea. When she began vomiting non-stop, Laiq drove her to the local emergency department. By the next afternoon, she would be dead.

Badrunnisa’s husband and children have been fighting for answers ever since. The family believes she would still be alive if not for what they allege were numerous delays in treatment and diagnosis at York Central Hospital and a shortage of neurosurgery beds in the province that led to Badrunnisa being sent to Buffalo, N.Y. The 52-year-old died of a brain hemorrhage before getting there.

York Central would not speak specifically about the case for this story, but in correspondence with Laiq Khurshid the hospital president said an internal review showed all expected treatments and tests were completed and staff provided the “best clinical care possible.”

The explanation was not enough for Badrunnisa’s husband and children. Two years later, the Khurshids are still determined to get more information, but are running out of options. They say Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has not responded to their demands for an inquiry. A statement of claim has been issued with the Ontario Superior Court, but has not yet been served on the hospital. The Khurshids haven’t decided whether to proceed. They say a lawsuit would drain their savings.

Legal experts say the family’s story underscores the need for an independent third-party investigator in the Ontario health system.

“There isn’t anywhere to go other than inside a hospital if a patient has a concern, and obviously the people who work in the hospital work for the hospital, so you’re talking to an employee of the hospital about a bad experience with (another) employee,” says Amani Oakley, a health and medical malpractice lawyer in Toronto. “If you are not satisfied there is absolutely nowhere to go with that complaint.”

Badrunnisa arrived at York Central Hospital on July 19, 2010. The following account of her stay is reconstructed from hospital records obtained by the family and correspondence between York Central and Laiq Khurshid.

Monday 11:30 a.m.: Laiq and his wife arrived at the hospital just before noon. A little over an hour later, Badrunnisa was taken to a treatment room, had blood work drawn and was given Gravol for nausea and vomiting. Her vital signs were stable.

3 p.m.: Badrunnisa underwent a chest x-ray and a CT scan. A radiologist determined the tests showed nothing of concern.

8 p.m.: Badrunnisa was diagnosed with gastroenteritis — an infection commonly referred to as the “stomach flu” — and given a discharge, which was cancelled after Laiq protested.

Throughout their night at the hospital, Badrunnisa continued vomiting and complained of a severe headache. Laiq had been at the hospital with his wife for more than 12 hours and believed there was something seriously wrong with her. He says he begged hospital staff to treat his wife’s case with a greater sense of urgency and was treated like a nuisance. “It seemed I was committing a crime for requesting help,” he later wrote about the experience.

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