Octogenarian spent 8 hours in an ER chair with broken back


An Outaouais man says a lack of available beds meant his 82-year-old mother sat for eight hours in an ER, suffering with a back injury.

In the minds of Géraldine Simard’s relatives, the care received by the senior is the direct result of staffing shortages wreaking havoc on western Quebec hospitals and the lack of available beds. 

Michael Simard, her son, said even paramedics questioned if the family wanted to bring her to the ER.

“I was wondering, why do they keep on asking us this? And the reason was because of the waiting period,” he told Radio-Canada in English.

“We were told that [at the] Gatineau [Hospital], it’s six hours of waiting while you’re in the ambulance, on the stretcher, before you even get in the hospital.” 

Instead, she was taken to Hôpital de Papineau, where she sat for hours in a reclined chair with fractured back bones due to osteoporosis.

Géraldine Simard stayed at the hospital from Tuesday to Thursday, only receiving a proper bed on her last day. Before that, his mother stayed in the hospital’s corridors, Michael said.

Michael Simard’s mother is now at the Wakefield Memorial Hospital. (Patrick Louiseize/Radio-Canada)

“I kept on pleading with them that she didn’t deserve that, that at her age and after everything she gave to society, we should be able to treat our elderly a little bit better than that,” Michael said. 

On Friday, Géraldine was moved to Wakefield Memorial Hospital, approximately a 50-minute drive from her home. While the family was pleased the 82-year-old would receive a room, it’s a difficult drive for her 92-year-old husband, who’s only visited his wife once since her transfer. 

She also had to spend more than a day wearing a bandage soiled with fecal matter, Michael said, as none of the nurses had time to change it.

Abnormally high occupancy rate: health officials

By email, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de l’Outaouais said the occupancy rate was abnormally high during the woman’s visit to the emergency room. It said transferring someone to another hospital is a common practice and is usually done with the patient’s agreement.

But that explanation doesn’t satisfy the Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de l’Outaouais, a health-care workers’ union in the area.

“It’s not something we like to see,” Karine D’Auteuil, the union’s president, said in French.

D’Auteuil wants a law for patient-nurse ratios to be implemented and working conditions to be improved to support staff who are already stretched thin.

Paul Brunet, head of the Quebec Council for the Protection of Patients, agrees that something needs to happen. 

“We are in a crisis,” he said. “But unfortunately for the system, we were in crisis summers [and holidays] before.”

Géraldine Simard had to wait eight hours on a reclining chair in an emergency room. (Submitted by Michael Simard)

Some have said that fierce competition from Ontario has only increased the staffing shortages in western Quebec, with better working conditions and pay pulling qualified workers away.

But earlier this summer, several Ottawa-area hospitals closed their emergency departments due to staffing shortages and some said they may need to do so again.

The Quebec minister responsible for the Outaouais, Mathieu Lacombe, wasn’t available for questions from Radio-Canada.

Michael Simard hopes CAQ Leader François Legault listens to his pleas to improve the health-care system. He said his mother needs better care now, not in two years. 

“My biggest worry is about the people who are stuck in the hospital, in [Papineau] and Gatineau in the hallway, in an emergency with no emergency button to press,” he said. “Who’s going to speak up for them? Who’s going to be their voice if they have no family?”

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