2 patients die while waiting in Montreal-area ER, investigations launched

Click to play video: 'Quebec health minister claims Bill 15 is ‘addressing certain issues’ following two hospital ER deaths'
Quebec health minister claims Bill 15 is ‘addressing certain issues’ following two hospital ER deaths
WATCH: Two people have died while waiting to be treated in the emergency room of a south shore Montreal hospital. The deaths occurred last week at the Anna-Laberge hospital which is operating well over capacity. But as Global's Gloria Henriquez reports, the health minister says there isn't much he can do. – Dec 5, 2023

Multiple investigations are underway after two patients died in separate incidents in the emergency room of a Montreal-area hospital last week.

The patients died at Hôpital Anna-Laberge in Châteauguay, a city located on Montreal’s south shore. The news was first reported by French-language digital outlet La Presse.

The Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de Montérégie-Ouest (FIQ-SPSMO), the union representing health-care workers at the hospital, said Tuesday members informed union president Dominic Caisse of the deaths.

The first patient died while waiting for care in the hospital’s ER last Wednesday, according to the union. A second patient’s death occurred the following day.

The regional health board, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de la Montérégie-Ouest (CISSS), confirmed investigations were launched. An internal probe and a coroner are both investigating.

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The CISSS offered its condolences to the patients’ families, saying it takes the situation “very seriously” and it will co-operate with investigators. The health board also confirmed meetings are underway to find ways to ease overcrowding at Hôpital Anna-Laberge.

“We currently have a busy situation and the waiting time is very high,” the CISSS said in an email to Global News.

The health board added “all efforts are made to reduce pressure on emergencies, for the well-being of teams and patients. We will never compromise on patient safety.”

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The union president said that while no one wants such a tragic situation to occur, he wasn’t surprised given the current conditions of the hospital’s ER. Caisse said health-care workers are not only overwhelmed, but their biggest concern is patient safety.

“It’s a tragedy that people die in those conditions,” Caisse said.

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Anna-Laberge Hospital has 32 stretchers in the emergency department — but Caisse said it has been operating at nearly 200 per cent capacity for weeks. He described it as “very chaotic” and the union has brought up the situation of overcrowding to the hospital.

The overcrowding hasn’t gone unnoticed by the very people trying to access urgent care. Outside the hospital, Cynthia Raymond said she needs immediate surgery but had no choice but to leave the ER on Tuesday.

“I’m going to have to go back home with meds and Thursday I will have to go to Charles-Le Moyne (hospital),” Raymond said.

The health-care staff in the ER did everything they could to help her, she added.

“It was just so long and I’m disappointed that today I’m not going to get the surgery that I need and I’m going to be in pain for two days,” Raymond said.

The office of Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé says he visited the hospital on Sunday to get a sense of the situation.

“It is completely unacceptable that we are experiencing these situations in Quebec’s emergency rooms,” he told reporters at the provincial legislature Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Dubé noted “it’s going to be tough” for Quebecers seeking urgent care in the coming weeks.

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He said emergency rooms are seeing an influx of patients due to viruses and health-care professionals have been part of rotating public sector walkouts. While essential services are maintained by law, Dubé said that means staff are being relocated from other departments to ERs during strike action.

Where possible, the Health Ministry is urging patients to call the 811 hotline or to book appointments online to avoid jamming ERs. Dubé did admit 811 is experiencing delays too.

“Maybe two hours on the phone is better than being in emergency where the waits are very long,” Dubé said.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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