When Anne-Marie Hutchins went to the COVID-19 testing site in Chilliwack on Aug. 25, 2020, she knew she was sick but she didn’t know how sick or what exactly was wrong.
What she did not have was COVID-19. But the acute chest pain she was experiencing and reported, along with her history of tachycardia, is something her sister Christine Hutchins says was overlooked.
Screening staff recommended no further medical assessment and the 46-year-old was sent home to self-isolate.
Her spouse took her to Chilliwack General Hospital the next day, Aug. 26, at 1:45 p.m. She died at 9:01 p.m. of a heart attack due to coronary artery disease.
“The fact that she was having chest pain should have been a reason to direct her to urgent care,” Christine told The Progress on Wednesday (April 28). “It is very likely that further assessment of her vitals, if they have been taken at the COVID-19 assessment centre, would have confirmed this. She could have arrived at the hospital more than 24 hours earlier than she did, and this could have saved her life.”
|Anne-Marie Hutchins COVID-19 screening form from Aug. 25 2020. (Submitted)|
Since Anne-Marie’s death, Christine and her mother Chris Race have gone back and forth with Fraser Health questioning their practices at the COVID testing sites. On a mission to make changes, they sent a letter to 90 individuals or medical centres, including the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), the BC Centre for Disease Control, Patient Care Quality Offices (PCQO), Members of Parliament, public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
All responses they received referred them to the PCQO for Fraser Health. The PCQO did not provide a written response within the promised 40 business days, only responding in a letter on March 12, 2021.
“Fraser Health’s response provides justification as to why they do not believe she needed to be referred to urgent care or to be assessed further,” she said. “Instead they are justifying reasons why they did not. It’s just baffling to me. It’s so disheartening.”
Christine said the PCQO did not identify immediate medical distress, which she says means the chest pain and history of tachycardia were overlooked.
In part, where Christine and the PCQO disagree is with the purpose is of a COVID-19 testing site. In a letter signed by PCQO-Fraser Health managing consultant Tasleem Juma and patient care quality officer Laura Briard, it was explained that the purpose of the COVID test sites was to swab members of the public who suspected they may have been exposed to the virus.
“The site was not an assessment-based clinic such as an urgent primary care centre, an emergency department, or a family doctor’s office.”
Those with physical distress, they concede, are to be directed to the emergency department. But it’s here where Christine disagrees with the assessment, or lack thereof, done on Anne-Marie that day.
“Even though she said she had chest pain, it’s like they didn’t take that seriously.”
Fraser Health has since edited its COVID-19 testing web pages to note that anyone experiencing certain serious symptoms such as severe difficulty breathing or severe chest pain should call 911 or go to emergency.
Christine says this advice online goes against the actions of the frontline staff on Aug. 25, 2020.
“This is contradictory to the point that Fraser Health is not admitting that an error was made and that Anne-Marie should have been referred to emergency.
“Fraser Health is not taking any accountability.”
Christine said her main objective going through the process of making formal complaints and, now, going to the media, is to prevent what happened to Anne-Marie happening to others.
“First and foremost, our intent to reach out is to build public awareness. By sharing our story, we hope to inform the public to advocate for their own health,” she said. “It is very important to emphasize that we should not begin with the assumption that we have COVID-19. We should be going to a doctor or emergency to be assessed, not to a COVID-19 testing site.
“Fraser Health did not send a patient who had chest pain to emergency and is not taking any accountability for their actions.”
Anne-Marie worked for many years as a records analyst for the Abbotsford Police Department.
Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.