A man in Senneterre, a town in Quebec’s Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, has died after waiting two hours for an ambulance after his local emergency room service was reduced.
The city, located about 500 kilometers northwest of Montreal, announced the death on Wednesday. The family later confirmed the man’s identity as 65-year-old Richard Genest.
Marianne Genest, who spoke to CBC News, said her father called for an ambulance around noon. 02.40, after the city emergency room was closed. Senneterre’s emergency room has only been in operation eight hours a day since mid-October due to staff shortages.
But the city’s only ambulance was already on its way to Val d’Or, almost 70 kilometers away, with another patient. The man who died waited for two hours for another ambulance to arrive from the neighboring town of Barraute.
He was then transported to the hospital in Val d’Or, where he was assessed by doctors, his daughter said. He then had to be transferred to the town of Amos, an hour away, where there was an emergency vascular surgeon on staff.
Instantly died in the elevator on his way to the operating table around 10 a.m. – over seven hours after he first called an ambulance, according to his daughter.
The mayor had asked the province to intervene
Senneterre Mayor Nathalie-Anne Pelchat said the situation could have been avoided if the city had been able to have a 24-hour emergency room.
She said she contacted the regional health authority before the death and asked it to reopen the emergency room as soon as possible. She said she also wrote to Quebec’s health minister, Christian Dubé, asking him to intervene.
“We take it very personally. The entire Senneterre community is really in shock,” Pelchat told Radio Canada. “We knew it would happen, we said it over and over again, no one believed us.”
“We knew it would happen, and it did, unfortunately.”
Émilise Lessard-Therrien, a Québec Solidaire MNA representing the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region at the National Assembly, said she felt her region had been “abandoned” by the provincial government.
“We have many questions about what happened. If the ambulance, if the ambulance staff were there … if the ambulance people went directly to Amos, to [right] specialist, perhaps Richard Genest would still be alive. “
Marianne Genest said it was certainly a problem, not only in Senneterre, but in small towns throughout the province.
“Every city should have a 24-hour emergency or something because we are human,” she said. “You can not just leave us like this.”
The health authority says protocol was followed
That Abitibi-Témiscamingue Integrated Health and Social Services Center (CISSS-AT), which oversees health services in the region, said in a statement that they were investigating the incident and found that all protocols were followed.
It also said the closure of the emergency room “was not a factor contributing to the death.”
In a speech to journalists, Prime Minister François Legault said he spoke with the head of the health authority and reiterated its conclusion that the closure of the emergency room did not contribute to the death.
The three opposition parties in the National Assembly on Thursday called on Quebec’s forensic office to investigate the incident.
CISSS-AT said the forensic pathologist has already decided not to open a case, “as there was nothing to justify an investigation.”
Marianne Genest said she would remember her father as the beloved “village clown” who was always there for her children, made people laugh and put the needs of others before her own.
A memorial march for Richard Genest has been held in Senneterre on Friday night.
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