Niagara Health has received the report and accepted the recommendations of an independent third-party Emergency Department Assessment Panel.
A Panel of external experts has completed its review of the Niagara Health Emergency Department (ED) in an effort to improve patient care and experiences for Indigenous Peoples following the tragic death of Heather Winterstein. The Panel’s recommendations will help us continue our work to make Niagara Health a safe and culturally welcoming space for Indigenous Peoples, one that meets their healthcare needs and respects their traditions.
* Nov. 3, 2023 - Please note that the following clarification is being made by NH at the request of Heather Winterstein’s family, to the final report, post publication: The reference on Page 20 to the 2.5 hours waiting in the Rapid Assessment Zone does not reflect the entire length of the wait experienced by Heather in the Emergency Department.
A statement from Lynn Guerriero, President and CEO of Niagara Health
Monday, Aug. 28, 2023
“Following the tragic death of Heather Winterstein at our St. Catharines Emergency Department (ED), an independent Emergency Department Assessment Panel was convened to understand the circumstances surrounding her death, and the experiences of Indigenous Peoples when they visit our emergency departments.
Today, the Panel released its report. We thank members of the Indigenous community who courageously shared their ED experiences with the Panel, as well as the staff and physicians who took part in the review in an effort to assist us on the path to meaningful change. Niagara Health is grateful for the Panel’s work and accepts all of the recommendations. These recommendations will be critical in furthering our ongoing work to advance reconciliation in healthcare in Niagara Region.
As an organization, Niagara Health has a deep commitment to promote a culturally safe environment to better support Indigenous patients and their families. This includes the creation of the Indigenous Health Services and Reconciliation team, whose mandate is to implement practices and services that are not only culturally safe, but also deliver the highest quality of care for Indigenous patients.
The death of Heather in our care was an absolute tragedy that is at odds with our high standards of care at Niagara Health.
As CEO, I am personally committed to ensuring every person who visits us – regardless of age, race, or background – receives the compassionate, high-quality care that our patients expect and deserve.
While we continue to mourn the tragic death of Heather, her legacy will live on for decades to come.”
The independent ED Assessment Panel was composed of six external leaders with a unique blend of expertise in emergency department and clinical operations, governance and management, employee engagement and patient care, and knowledge and practise of Indigenous culture and traditional healing.
The ED Assessment Panel members include:
Click here to read the ED Assessment Panel biographies.
Niagara Health’s goal is to learn, offer healing, and mobilize change to improve the quality and safety of care for Indigenous patients.
The independent ED Assessment follows an internal Quality of Care Reflective Review that Niagara Health completed in March 2022 following the tragic death of Heather Winterstein, an Indigenous patient in our care in December 2021. This ED Assessment was done in Heather’s memory.
As part of the assessment, the Panel sought input from Indigenous patients and families, organizations, community services, and healthcare partners to understand experiences and assess opportunities for improvement. Feedback, suggestions and experiences were shared with the Panel, Niagara Health Executive Team members, Director of Engagement and Jill Shimizu-Wilson, former Indigenous Advisor to Niagara Health. Our ED physicians and staff also had the opportunity to share their perspectives. The Panel listened and examined all information collected and provided recommendations to Niagara Health to improve the care and experiences of Indigenous patients, families and communities.
Niagara Health thanks the Panel members for their participation on the Panel, recognizing the tremendous responsibility that comes with this important work.
We thank members of the Indigenous community who courageously shared their ED experiences with the Panel, as well as the staff and physicians who took part in the review in an effort to assist us on the path to meaningful change. These recommendations will be critical in furthering our ongoing work to advance reconciliation in healthcare in Niagara Region.
Niagara Health also completed an extensive internal quality review following Heather’s death that resulted in 16 recommendations. All of those recommendations were accepted and completed.
Niagara Health is committed to continuing to listen and learn more about the healthcare experiences of Indigenous Peoples in an effort to take meaningful action. We invite you to provide feedback to help us improve your care and experience in our hospitals by contacting our Indigenous Health Services and Reconciliation team at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 905-378-4647 extension 43211.
We acknowledge that sharing your stories may be triggering and resurface trauma. We encourage you to reach out for support. You can find a list of Indigenous Wellness Resources here.
You can also find more information on Indigenous Health Services and Reconciliation at Niagara Health here.
If you are a patient or family member and have a concern about your current care, please direct your comments to Patient Relations. They can assist you in resolving any dissatisfaction you or your loved one may have with the manner in which you were treated.