Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 22: Health (18-24)

External ED Assessment Panel makes recommendations for Niagara Health

August 28, 2023

NationTalk: The independent third-party panel reviewing the circumstances surrounding the death of Indigenous patient Heather Winterstein in the St. Catharines Emergency Department (ED) in December 2021 released its final report and recommendations on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023.

As we work towards reconciliation, President and CEO Lynn Guerriero has committed to accountability and transparency and accepts all of the recommendations of the Panel, which will be applied across the three EDs and all Niagara Health sites.

The ED Assessment Panel was formed with the goal of helping Niagara Health continue to learn, heal and change to improve the quality and safety of care for Indigenous patients. 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.

The ED Assessment was completed in Heather’s memory. As part of the assessment, the Panel sought input from Indigenous patients and their families, organizations, community services, and healthcare partners as well as Niagara Health physicians and staff.

It is a priority for Niagara Health to help foster a culturally safe environment for all Indigenous patients and their families. We look forward to working with our internal and external partners to advance this shared goal together.

A statement from Lynn Guerriero, President and CEO of Niagara Health

“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.”