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‘Unprofessional’: Couple waits hours at a hospital to see a doctor who wasn’t there

Click to play video: 'Montreal couple upset with Quebec health system after waiting hours for a doctor who had left'
Montreal couple upset with Quebec health system after waiting hours for a doctor who had left
A pair of Montreal seniors are ripping into Quebec's health system after an experience that left them feeling upset and disrespected. The couple says they were left waiting for hours at a hospital, and the doctor they were waiting for had left. As Dan Spector reports, that's only part of the story. – Apr 27, 2024

A pair of Montreal-area seniors are ripping into Quebec’s health system after an experience that left them feeling upset and disrespected.

The couple says they were left waiting for hours at a hospital, even though the doctor they were waiting for had left.

“I find it very inconsiderate and unprofessional,” said 72-year-old Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac resident Karen Williams.

Karen and her husband Brian Williams say their negative experience with the health system started on March 29 when Brian woke up in the middle of the night.

“I was having trouble breathing, so we called 911,” 75-year-old Brian recounted.

The couple, who have been together for more than 50 years, rushed to the Saint-Eustache Hospital where X-rays revealed his stomach was pressing against his lungs.

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They say Saint-Eustache referred him to a thoracic specialist at Sacré Coeur Hospital in Montreal, and he was given an appointment for April 9.

“They didn’t tell us the doctor’s name, no location, just to be at the hospital,” Karen said.

They arrived an hour early to be sure they had time to park and get their bearings. They said multiple staff members were impolite and unhelpful as they tried to find their way.

“It took an hour, three different floors and five different people to find out which clinic he had to be at and which doctor he had to see,” Karen said.  

Even so, they arrived for their 12:45 p.m. appointment at 12:15 p.m. They sat down and waited. And waited…

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End of deal with family doctors could jeopardize access to health care for Quebecers

“(So,) 2:15 p.m. comes and nobody has said a word. The other patients have not been called in that were there before us,” said Karen.

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Their parking was about to run out, so Karen decided to ask how much longer it might be so she’d know what to do with their car.

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“The answer I got, very politely, was, ‘Oh, the doctor was called into an emergency and we don’t know how long he’s going to be,” she said.

The Williamses say they understand emergencies take priority, but what they don’t get is why nobody informed them the doctor wasn’t even there, and why there was no timetable for his return.

“Use your head, feel your heart and go see the people,” said Brian. “How long would that take, two minutes?”

“There is no way that people should have been sitting there for two and three hours and not being advised of the situation,” said Karen, who feels they should have been offered a chance to reschedule.

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Patient rights advocate Paul Brunet says he hears similar stories far too often.

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“Sometimes I wonder if a lot of those caregivers have not thrown in the towel after all the crises they’ve been through,” Brunet told Global News.

He says events like this create cynicism toward the health system.

“You know, be a little more compassionate. That is not costly. We don’t need millions of dollars to do that,” said Brunet.

A spokesperson for the CIUSSS du Nord de l’ile de Montreal, the regional health authority that oversees Sacré Coeur, said it can’t comment on specific cases.

“If it has not already been done, users can contact the local complaints commissioner at any time to request assistance or make a complaint. This body is independent and its services are free and confidential,” said Beatrice Gougeon.

Karen Williams said she has already filed the complaint, noting this isn’t her first frustration with the health system.

“I’ve been waiting two years for an operation on a brain aneurysm,” she explained.

After consulting their family doctor they found out Brian has a hiatal hernia that needs attention.

The physician helped get him an appointment at the McGill University Health Centre, where they hope to find out how to get him out of danger.

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