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December 20, 2000

Cig Break Almost Fatal

Seven Oaks patient gets locked out
By CARY CASTAGNA -- Staff Reporter
Seven Oaks General Hospital administrators are feeling the heat after a locked-out patient nearly froze to death.

Hospital CEO Mark Neskar confirmed yesterday that a Winnipeg woman in her early 50s suffered frostbite and hypothermia early Friday morning while trying to re-enter the hospital following a smoke break.

The woman, who denied an interview request with The Sun, had stepped out the front entrance at about 3 a.m. for a cigarette wearing only her hospital-issued gown and housecoat in the -30 C temperature, only to find the doors locked behind her.

Neskar said the woman was discovered 45 minutes later, in need of medical attention.

"She was on her hands and knees trying to crawl into the emergency department when people who were leaving saw her and gave her assistance," he said.

Neskar said it's hospital policy to lock the front entrance from the outside after 11 p.m.

Patients looking to satisfy their nicotine cravings must use the emergency entrance -- which is never locked, he added.

"She had an IV pole which she abandoned halfway between the two entrances," he said. "It's not a long distance, but in extreme cold and through snow it would be difficult."

"It's a long time in that kind of weather," Neskar said.

The woman was treated at Seven Oaks for frostbite, before being transported for further treatment to Health Sciences Centre, where she was listed in fair condition yesterday.

"We really hope she's going to recover from her injuries," Neskar said. "We regret that it happened and we don't want it to happen again. That's why we're taking measures to fix the problem."

Neskar said security and plant staff are reviewing policies and procedures. They are expected to provide Neskar with recommendations this week.

"At night, we have to lock the doors because we have less staff," he explained. "These doors are only locked one way. We want to stop people from coming in late at night."