May 22, 2008 -- Holland America has issued a statement to "acknowledge that procedures needed to be reviewed and changed" following the death of Don Bryce aboard their Mediterranean-bound ship.
Don and his wife, Marlene, were traveling to celebrate Don's retirement. But what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime ended tragically 12 days into their vacation when Don died on the floor of their cabin.
According to onboard records, after Don fell ill eight days into their trip his wife repeatedly asked for help. Marlene said that the lack of care her husband received from the ship's medical staff ultimately resulted in Don's death. Click here to read their story.
Holland America said the medical staff was in frequent contact with the Bryces and did nothing wrong. "We have determined the medical staff acted in a proper and professional manner," it stated.
In a separate statement given to ABC News, Holland America said that "In most instances, medical staff can support, comfort and care for patients who suddenly become ill on board."
They said that they have apologized to Marlene Bryce and have set up an office in Seattle that trains staff "how to handle tragic events and offers professional support and guidance."
Holland America also stated that each cruise ship has one physician and at least two to four registered nurses, in addition to equipment to address "most emergencies and routine medical procedures."
The full statement that Holland America made to ABC News is printed below.
"At Holland America Line the health and safety of our guests and crew is our highest priority. The on-board medical center maintains regular hours daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The medical officers respond to on-board emergencies 24 hours a day.
"Every cruise is staffed with one passenger physician and medical officers—2 to 4 registered nurses and one crew physician — available for emergencies 24 hours a day. Acknowledged as an industry leader in cruise medicine, Holland America Line carefully screens applicants for shipboard medical staff positions: passenger physicians and nurses must be American- or Canadian-trained and licensed and experienced in emergency medicine.
"Nurses must have a minimum of four years of recent active nursing experience in emergency or critical care; crew physicians are trained and board-certified in the Philippines. All medical staff are certified in advanced cardiac life support.
"Each Holland America Line ship has a medical center carrying much of the standard equipment found in North American hospital emergency departments. While not a full-service hospital, the onboard medical center accommodates most emergencies and routine medical procedures.
"The medical center has an examination room, capabilities to perform simple laboratory tests, an X-ray machine, one isolation bed, an intensive care unit with one bed, and one or two additional beds. A pacemaker, defibrillator, cardiac monitor, electrocardiogram machine, ventilator, oxygen and suction unit are included in the medical center's mini-intensive care unit.
"The attached fact sheet has more information on our medical procedures.
"In the review of Mr. Bryce's case files, Holland America Line feels there are misunderstandings about the care he was provided and the chronology of events. We understand that the Bryces are willing to sign a waiver for medical records to be release but as a matter of professional ethics, we would only release the records to Mrs. Bryce or a physician identified by her.
"Without being too specific, over the course of the cruise there were multiple times where infirmary staff were in contact with him and his wife either by phone or in person to review his situation. Vital signs were taken on numerous occasions over the course of the cruise.
"In review of the medical procedures and actions in this case, we have determined that medical staff acted in a proper and professional manner as appropriate for this case.
"With regard to the handling of arrangements following Mr. Bryce's passing, we acknowledge that procedures needed to be reviewed and changed.
"To improve our guest interactions and meet the needs of those guests during tragic events such as a sudden death, we have developed a new department in the Seattle office that trains ship board staff and key personnel in Seattle in how to handle tragic events and offers professional support and guidance.
"We are sorry this program was not in place when Mr. Bryce passed away, and have apologized to Mrs. Bryce."