Quebec must invest in pre-hospital emergency care, says ambulance company executive after patient's death

The death of Richard Genest, who could not be treated at the closed emergency room of the CLSC of Senneterre in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, shows that it is necessary to invest "immediately" in pre-hospital emergency services, said Maxime Laviolette, general manager of the ambulance company responsible for transporting the patient.

Genest, 65, had to be transported 135 kilometres by ambulance on Tuesday because the Senneterre hospital emergency room has been closed from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. since Oct. 18. Before the ambulance arrived, he waited more than an hour. The man, who was suffering from stomach pain, died in the elevator of the Amos hospital while being taken to an operating room where a whole team was waiting for him.

The story demonstrated the consequences of the lack of ambulance coverage, Laviolette said.

"The ball is clearly no longer in the court of the CISSS, CIUSSS or the ambulance companies," he said in a release. "The Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Treasury Board Secretariat must invest immediately in pre-hospital emergency services."

He pointed out that the problem is acute in ambulance zones where paramedics are on call. They are on call at their homes 24-hours-a-day for seven days rather than already being in the ambulance vehicle.

Because the coroner is conducting an inquest, Laviolette said he would not grant an interview and would stick to his written statements.

OPPOSITION CRITICISM

After initially deciding there would be no inquest, the coroner's office said Thursday that an inquest had been opened. CISSS d'Abitibi-Témiscamingue (CISSS-AT) management said Thursday that Genest's death was inevitable and that his condition had a low survival rate.

The emergency room closing and the wait for the ambulance did not have change anything, according to the CISSS.

In Quebec City, the opposition sees the case in a different light.

The three opposition parties believe that Premier François Legault and his Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, have their share of responsibility in the tragedy. Other solutions than closing the Senneterre emergency room could have been found, they say.

The Legault government responded by suggesting that it will announce new bonuses for the health network in the regions and that time was needed to train staff. "Throughout Quebec, we can't have an ambulance on every street corner," Legault said at a news conference Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 3, 2021. 

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