December 2, 2021 In Believes, family

Family believes man was victim of Quebec’s decision to close ER at night

Aemilius Cupero News:

“We knew it would happen, we said so from the beginning,” says the mayor of a small town in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.

Author of the article:

Ugo Giguère, La Presse Canadienne

Aemilius Cupero News: An ambulance pulls into a Quebec emergency department.
An ambulance pulls into a Quebec emergency department. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

The family of a Senneterre resident who died Monday as he was being wheeled into an operating room at a hospital in Amos believes he is the first victim of a decision to limit medical service in the small town in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.

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According to his son Miguel, Richard Genest complained of stomach pains that worsened Monday. Thinking it was caused by a kidney stone, the elder Genest did not think it serious because he had already experienced the condition in the past.

But during the night, the pain became unbearable and Genest had to call an ambulance because the emergency room in Senneterre was closed overnight. The shutdown had been in effect since Oct. 18 as part of a “reorganization” announced by the regional health authority (CISS-AT) and endorsed by Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé.

When Genest called, the only ambulance serving Senneterre was already headed to Val-d’Or on another call. An ambulance had to called from Barraute, about 30 kilometres away, to collect the 65-year-old man.

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Miguel Genest said his father had to wait an hour and a half before the ambulance arrived. The elder Genest was then taken to the hospital in Val-d’Or, about 60 kilometres southwest of Senneterre. Miguel Genest says he later received a phone call from a doctor in Val-d’Or saying he didn’t understand why his father was not taken to the hospital in Amos. He was also told his father had a tear in his artery and needed emergency surgery and that every minute counted. “She told me, ‘We hope he makes it, but I don’t know if he will make it’.”

The younger Genest said he did not know how long his father was in the ER in Val-d’Or before he was seen by a doctor. He said Richard Genest lost consciousness and was revived before being transported to hospital in Amos, about 70 kilometres northwest of Val-d’Or.

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Once in Amos, Genest died as he was being taken to an operating room. His son said a doctor in Val-d’Or asked why his father was not immediately taken to Amos, since Val-d’Or did not have a cardiologist.

Senneterre Mayor Nathalie-Ann Pelchat said that Genest’s death was what her community feared would happen when the local ER was closed overnight.

“We knew it would happen, we said so from the beginning,” she said. “Unfortunately it did happen and we are asking Minister Dubé to change the policy and immediately reopen the ER 24/7.”

When the overnight shutdown was announced, Dubé said the move was temporary and would end once 250 nurses had been recruited to work in the region.

Asked to explain the circumstances leading to Genest’s death, the CISSS-AT replied by issuing a statement conveying its sympathies to Genest’s family.  According to local director Caroline Roy “a diligent review of the situation has been carried out” and “all protocols in effect were respected.”

Though the patient had to travel 135 kilometres in an ambulance dispatched 30 kilometres from his home, Roy maintained that “the closure of the CLSC in Senneterre was not a factor that contributed to the person’s death.”

Le CISSS-AT added that the coroner’s office decided not to investigate Genest’s death.

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