During a Covid-19 self-isolation period following a complainant’s return to PEI, they relapsed into serious alcohol abuse. With the help of the RCMP and paramedics, the complainant was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) for treatment. While they waited to be transferred to the Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility (PATF) for rehabilitation, they were given diazepam to treat their withdrawal symptoms.
After two days the complainant was told that the PATF’s pandemic protocols would not permit them to be admitted at the facility until their isolation period expired, which was still several days away. Through consultation with physicians at the QEH, the complainant was released from care with the understanding that they would attend the PATF after their isolation period expired.
The complainant left QEH by themselves in a taxi and decided to resume consuming alcohol. The complainant’s next memory was waking up in custody and being criminally charged for something they did not remember. They were eventually convicted for those crimes. The complainant told us they learned about the possibility of a negative interaction between diazepam and alcohol. They believed that this caused what they described as their uncharacteristically erratic behavior.
While the complainant took personal responsibility for their actions, they complained to OmbudsPEI that they were not informed by QEH staff about the potential drug interactions between diazepam and alcohol prior to leaving QEH. The complainant believed QEH staff should have reasonably suspected that they might start consuming alcohol again following their unsuccessful attempt to receive addictions treatment. They complained to HealthPEI about this, but the complainant did not believe their concerns were understood or taken seriously.
We investigated whether HealthPEI followed a reasonable process during his discharge from QEH. HealthPEI told us that there was no written record of QEH staff telling the complainant about the potential negative interaction between alcohol and diazepam. They explained that while it was unlikely that the dosage and administration schedule of diazepam would have led to serious negative interactions with alcohol at the time of the complainant’s release, HealthPEI acknowledged that it was possible that a negative interaction could occur. Recognizing this, HealthPEI apologized. They also committed to reviewing their discharge procedures regarding drug interaction warnings so that they may help prevent any failure to warn from occurring in the future. The complainant was satisfied with HealthPEI’s apology and was happy to learn that a review of its practices would occur.