A letter from the hospital’s chief operating officer sent to patients treated by Brigitte Cleroux doesn’t include any contact information for police probing the 49-year-old’s year working as a perioperative nurse.
In fact, the letter says, “no further action is required from you at this time.”
For 37-year-old Amy Field, who was treated by Cleroux during a uterine ablation surgery for endometriosis, the response from the hospital fails to capture the gravity of the situation.
“I’m not impressed with the letter,” she told CBC.
“For such a massive, massive screw up on their part, it seems like such an absolute boilerplate letter. I can’t imagine how they could have gone about it in any way less of a caring way.”
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Field said the letter left her with no idea about what she should do next. Apart from the lack of information about how to reach investigators with the Vancouver Police Department, there’s no mention of counselling services for people who might have been hurt.
“I’ve been trying to do my own research to figure out what direction I could potentially take this — if any — and there’s no guidance, there’s no offer of any kind of help,” Field said.
“We shouldn’t be having to take it upon ourselves to figure out where to go from here.”
Speaking to police is ‘a personal choice’
Cleroux has been charged with fraud and personation in B.C., and investigators allege she used the name of another nurse to gain employment. She also faces charges in Ottawa related to similar allegations, and has a long history of convictions for posing as a nurse in multiple provinces.
VPD spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison said the investigation is still ongoing and “it’s a personal choice to come forward and speak to police.”
However, he confirmed that investigators won’t be able to look into Cleroux’s interactions with individual patients unless they speak with police.
“We cannot access a victim’s private medical information without their consent,” Addison wrote in an email.
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The letters to patients include a phone number for the hospital, where patients can seek more details about Cleroux’s involvement in their surgeries, as well as the Provincial Health Services Authority’s patient care quality office.
In an emailed statement, PHSA communications officer Andrea Visscher said the health authority is committed to supporting patients and answering their questions.
“We are responding to each call as quickly as possible and are providing further guidance and individualized support as identified by the patient during the call, and liaising with the VPD as appropriate,” Visscher wrote.
She added that anyone who’s received a letter can reach the VPD’s lead investigator at 604-717-2556, and police can provide referrals to victims’ services.
Alexandra Tymkiw, the first of Cleroux’s patients to go public, was also concerned about the lack of contact information for police.
She’s created a “how to” guide after hearing from other alleged victims who’ve been confused about where to turn. Some have resorted to calling 911 in an attempt to connect with investigators, Tymkiw said.
Her guide begins with the line, “So you’ve received a letter,” and includes direct contact information for the lead investigator in the case, along with a list of information patients will be expected to provide to police.
‘They didn’t do enough due diligence’
Unlike other patients who’ve spoken with CBC, Field doesn’t remember Cleroux from her time at the hospital and isn’t sure what role she played in the operating room. Field said she’s left a message with the hospital asking for more information, but hasn’t heard back.
Tymkiw has said Cleroux was responsible for administering pain medication during her surgery, but the pain was so intense the procedure had to be stopped.
Although Field doesn’t know whether Cleroux played the same role in her case, she said her surgery was also quite uncomfortable.
“I did experience pain in the procedure to the point where I was trying to push myself away,” she said.
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The biggest question for everyone who has received one of the hospital’s letters is how this was allowed to happen, and few answers have been forthcoming.
“They placed not just me, but God knows how many other women, in such a vulnerable position [because] they didn’t do enough due diligence to know that this woman didn’t even have a nursing license,” Field said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix has promised a thorough review of the situation.