'Pure injustice': Patients’ rights advocate deplores healthcare delays before Senneterre man's death

A patients’ rights advocate is outraged by the significant delay in getting a Quebec man hospital care after he died waiting more than two hours to see a doctor.

Richard Genest, 65, died in the elevator of the Amos hospital just before he was brought into the operating room, but not after being mistakenly sent to the Val d’Or hospital since the Senneterre hospital — just five minutes from his home — was closed overnight due to staff shortages.

In all, the man was transported over 135 kilometres in neighbouring cities before he died due to a sudden heart problem, according to his family.

“This is total and pure injustice,” said Paul Brunet, president of the Conseil pour la protection des malades (CPM).

“Don’t tell me we live in a democracy when [there is] this kind of refusal of access and refusal of justice.”

The Senneterre hospital shut down its emergency room on Oct. 18 for 18 hours per day. Since then, patients have had to get care at other hospitals between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. The partial closure is being blamed by a lack of staff — something the province has been trying to address though recent bonuses and other retention measures.

Brunet, whose organization strives to defend the right to “dignified and adequate health care” for everyone, said the Genest family deserves an apology and compensation for their loss.

“This is not access to healthcare. This is total ignorance and non-compliance with a fundamental rule, which is, because of the income taxes everyone pays everywhere they live, they are entitled to universal healthcare accessible ... Of course, this was not respected.”

Genest’s family could have recourse if they can prove that the death was because of a breakdown in services, he added, though it could end up being a costly battle.

Premier François Legault and Health Minister Christian Dubé were grilled by opposition parties at the National Assembly Thursday. According to Legault, the ER closure had nothing to do with the man’s death.

“With all due respect, I think, again Mr. Legault, is not telling the truth. And certainly maybe he’s not informed of what has happened,” Brunet said.

“Whatever the reason, there is no reason for closing emergencies in Gatineau, in Coaticook, in Lachine and elsewhere.”

PRESS CONFERENCE AT LACHINE HOSPITAL THURSDAY

Senneterre is not the only hospital in Quebec that announced a recent closure of its emergency room overnight.

The Lachine Hospital ER has been closed for nearly a month from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. Dr. Paul Saba, the hospital’s president of the Council of Physicians, said closing down ERs is “inexcusable” in Quebec and wants the local and provincial governments to realize that Genest’s death shows that every minute counts when an emergency strikes.

“That's why the need to have emergency rooms close in proximity to patients. Emergency rooms are not a 9 to 3 or 9 to 4 [facility]. It's got to be a 24-hour facility with staff with doctors and nurses who are qualified,” he said.

“Whenever that is missing, then lives are put at risk.”

The situation is not just affecting patients, but staff, too. Dr. Saba said a nurse told him at the end of her shift on Thursday that she was quitting because of the situation at the Lachine Hospital and how nurses are being treated.

Saba is scheduled to address the ER closure at a press conference outside the hospital Friday at 2:30 p.m. alongside Joël Arseneau, the Parti Québécois’ health critic.