MONTREAL - A nurse at Maisonneuve-Rosemont who was on duty when a mother died just after giving birth three years ago pleaded guilty to negligence Monday at a Quebec Order of Nurses disciplinary board hearing.

Anne-Marie Couture was one of several nurses who were charged with caring Christine Sasseville on Aug. 14, 2008, the day she gave birth to her son Demba and died from preeclampsia – or hypertension in pregnancy.

However, the punishment agreed upon by both sides – a two-month suspension – was not upheld by the head of the disciplinary panel because it was deemed too severe considering the unfavourable working conditions Couture was facing that night.

Sasseville's widower, Gondiel Ka, is having trouble understanding the reasoning.

"I think it's not something I was expecting, since a woman died and she died in a very difficult condition," Ka said. "I was maybe expecting sanctions that were more severe."

Sasseville had been with Ka for more than 20 years and left behind two other children besides the newly-born Demba, who is now 3.

Ka says he may have trouble explaining Monday's decision to his kids.

"I think they're going to be a little disappointed because for them, what happened is not fair to their mom," he said.

Couture said she was caring for too many patients the night of Sasseville's death, and her co-workers were at the hearing to support their colleague's argument that providing proper care is difficult when a nurse is overworked.

Sometimes when one patient absolutely needs our care at that moment, the others are neglected," said Caroline Remillard. "It's just a fact."

A coroner's report on Sasseville's death said she did not receive the care she should have, and Ka has filed a $4 million lawsuit against the hospital and two of its doctors. He is still awaiting a trial date.

Meanwhile, the disciplinary panel will make a decision on Couture's punishment in the coming weeks while up to three other nurses from Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital could be called for hearings on Sasseville's death.