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‘He took his last breath in my arms’: Kamloops doctor dies in waiting room of hospital where he used to work

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WATCH: The recent death of a former doctor at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops is drawing new attention to the issue of overcrowding in that region. He died in the waiting room, and while his widow agrees his death was inevitable, she feels the health authority needs to address the problem. Ted Chernecki has details – Mar 22, 2017

Dr. Janice Joneja recalls the painful moments before her husband’s death at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital.

“I just took him in my arms and I said, ‘I’m with you, I’m here,'” she told CFJC. “He took his last breath in my arms, sitting in the wheelchair in the waiting room.”

Dr. Rajindar Joneja died in Janice Joneja’s arms in the waiting room of the hospital where he worked decades ago.

Rajindar, who worked as a neurologist and psychiatrist, went to hospital on March 12, suffering from severe chest pains. He told a triage nurse about his medical history, having suffered heart damage from chemotherapy drugs during a battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

He was given two aspirins and was told to wait for a physician. Minutes later, he suffered cardiac failure.

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Janice Joneja said her husband was in obvious distress and should have immediately been taken to a bed or trauma room.

“It is quite likely, almost inevitable he would have died, because he was in that acute phase,” Janice Joneja said. “However, it wouldn’t have been under those circumstances.”

Dr. Anders Ganstal, the ER department head at Royal Inland Hospital, told CFJC the incident is “already in the process of being reviewed as is all cases that present with patients’ concerns or concerns by ourselves.”

But Janice Joneja said she is not only concerned about emergency room procedures, but also the region’s lack of medical facilities such as a cardiology and cancer clinic.

“We’re at least 20 years behind Kelowna,” she said. “We’re always told it’s all a matter of money, but the point is that this is a community that is lacking dreadfully in medical care.”

That lack of facilities, she says, is one of the reasons the community fails to attract physicians.

“Thirty per cent of the population of Kamloops does not have a general physician. Now, my question is why would any doctor choose to practise in Kamloops?”

– With files from CFJC