A second patient who was treated by a woman posing as a nurse at B.C. Women’s Hospital is speaking out about what happened and says she’s feeling profoundly disappointed by the response from health authorities.
Paige Morris, 25, underwent a surgical abortion at the Vancouver hospital in May and just received a letter informing her that one of the perioperative nurses who assisted with the procedure was not actually licensed.
“I was in shock. I didn’t even know what to say,” Morris told CBC News.
The phoney nurse, 49-year-old Brigitte Cleroux, currently faces criminal charges in both B.C. and Ontario related to impersonation and fraud and has a long list of previous convictions for similar crimes. She has not completed nursing school or held a valid nursing licence anywhere in Canada.
The letter that Morris received was signed by the hospital’s chief operating officer Cheryl Davies and ends with a brief acknowledgement of the seriousness of the situation.
“We understand this is potentially worrisome and apologize for any distress this letter may cause you,” Davies wrote.
For Morris, that wording doesn’t come close to capturing the impact on patients.
“The letter itself I felt was so insufficient for the gravity of the situation. They made it seem like it’s not a big deal,” she said.
“This is so, so much bigger than what they’re making it out to seem.”
Vancouver police say Cleroux used the name of a real nurse to gain employment at the hospital, where she provided care to patients from June 2020 to June 2021.
‘She was being really hostile’
Morris said she was under general anesthetic for her procedure, but Cleroux administered medication to her before she was put under.
“She didn’t say anything to me, but she was yelling at other people,” Morris said. “She was being really hostile with her colleagues … That kind of caught me off guard.”
That description of Cleroux’s demeanour matches the memories of Alexandra Tymkiw, another patient who was treated by Cleroux. Tymkiw remembered the fake nurse being loud and condescending, both to patients and her colleagues.
Morris said that because she was completely unconscious during her abortion, she has no idea of the role that Cleroux played.
There is no information in Davies’ letter that is specific to Morris’s case. Apart from the date of treatment by Cleroux, it is identical to the letter Tymkiw received.
The lack of information means that Morris can only speculate about the potential harm an unqualified nurse could have caused.
Morris suffered complications during her abortion and has had to return to the hospital because of hemorrhaging. Now, she can’t help but wonder if there’s any connection to Cleroux.
“I don’t know what happened after I was asleep,” Morris said. “I can’t grasp it. It’s so violating. I can’t wrap my head around how something like that could happen here.”
She points out that police and the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), which operates the hospital, haven’t released any information about how they discovered Cleroux’s deception. Morris worries about the potential for serious harm to patients during Cleroux’s full year in Vancouver.
Patients connecting to share experiences
After she received her letter from the hospital on Friday, Morris went online and read about Tymkiw’s encounter with Cleroux during surgery to remove a polyp from her uterus.
Morris reached out to Tymkiw in the hope of feeling less alone, as have seven other women.
Morris spoke to CBC News at Tymkiw’s Vancouver home this weekend, where the two women shared their experiences.
Tymkiw shares Morris’s concerns about the lack of information she’s received from the hospital and PHSA. Tymkiw argued that verifying someone’s credentials doesn’t seem like a particularly difficult task.
“The fact that this could happen at a place that is supposed to serve and protect women’s health, in such a compromising circumstance, is beyond me,” Tymkiw said.
A PHSA spokesperson told CBC she was unable to provide further details on Cleroux’s duties at the hospital or the investigation.
“We can assure the public that we are reviewing this matter fully to determine how this occurred, any internal processes that may have contributed to it and impact to patients,” communications director Pamela Gole wrote in an email on Friday.
PHSA has said that affected patients should reach out to B.C. Women’s Hospital directly with any concerns.
Cleroux is scheduled to make her first appearance in Vancouver provincial court on Tuesday. She has been charged with fraud over $5,000 and personation with the intent to gain advantage.