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The Globe and Mail

Rita MacNeil did not have hospital-acquired infection, health officials say

Ms. MacNeil died on Apr. 16 after undergoing abdominal surgery at Cape Breton Regional Hospital earlier in the month.


The late Canadian singer Rita MacNeil did not contract an infection in hospital in Cape Breton, health authorities say – contrary to a report that appeared in The Globe and Mail.

Ms. MacNeil died on Apr. 16 after undergoing abdominal surgery at Cape Breton Regional Hospital earlier in the month. On Friday, The Globe published a column that said Ms. MacNeil "contracted an infection in hospital after the surgery, slipped into a coma and died."

After reviewing the case, a hospital official said Ms. MacNeil had no such infection.

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"Senior management, including myself and the head nurse of the [intensive care unit], we reviewed the patient's chart, and I'm very confident – I'm 100 per cent confident – that didn't happen," Andrew Lynk, associate vice-president for medicine at the CBDHA, said in an interview.

On Thursday, the Cape Breton District Health Authority declined to comment on The Globe story, citing privacy and confidentiality rules surrounding patients.

The following day, however, the district health authority issued a statement disputing parts of the column.

"Without violating the patient's privacy and confidentiality, the District can say that the patient did not have or die from a health care associated infection."

Dr. Lynk did not go into detail about Ms. MacNeil's treatment in hospital, again citing rules of patient privacy and confidentiality. But, speaking generally, he said infections acquired in hospitals have tell-tale signs.

"All of the hospital-acquired infections have certain manifestations," Dr. Lynk said. For example, he said, C. difficile causes diarrhea and MRSA -- methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – causes antibiotic resistance in patients. "It's either in your blood or in your skin or in the muscle, that's evident as well," he said of patients who have MRSA.

Elena Cherney, The Globe and Mail's managing editor, expressed regret for the mistake in the column, written by André Picard.

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"The Globe's sourcing on this story proved to be unreliable. Although Mr. Picard did call the hospital to verify his facts on Thursday, officials declined to comment, and did not provide the information they have since offered to clarify the circumstances surrounding Ms. MacNeil's death. The Globe regrets the error," she said.

A spokeswoman for Ms. MacNeil's family, Marlene Palmer, told The Globe and Mail in an e-mail that family members agreed with the district health authority's statement, but declined further comment.

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Banking Reporter

James Bradshaw is banking reporter for the Report on Business. He covered media from 2014 to 2016, and higher education from 2010 to 2014. Prior to that, he worked as a cultural reporter for Globe Arts, and has written for both the Toronto section and the editorial page. More

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