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2 patients die in ER waiting room of hospital on Montreal's South Shore

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An investigation is underway after two people died while waiting in the emergency room at Anna-Laberge Hospital in Châteauguay on Montreal's South Shore.

The Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de la Montérégie-Ouest confirmed the news, offering its sympathies "to the families involved."

The centre says it will not comment further.

"We take these situations very seriously and will cooperate fully with the ongoing investigations," it said. "We are currently experiencing a very busy period and wait times are very high."

The centre says it has met "in recent days" with the Quebec Health Ministry and other CISSSs in the Montérégie region to find ways to reduce pressure in the ERs.

"Further meetings are scheduled for early this week," it told CTV News. "Every effort is being made to reduce the pressure on emergency rooms for the well-being of both teams and patients. We will never compromise on patient safety."

Extended pressure on ERs is a major problem, according to the ASMUQ (Association des spécialistes en médecine d'urgence du Québec).

"In the emergency, for two-three days to be at 150-200 per cent, we can survive, we manage, but when it's been two, four, six weeks in Anna-Laberge case, it does become dysfunctional," said ASMUQ president Dr. Gilbert Boucher. "At 200 per cent there are people everywhere. You basically put patients anywhere they will fit, computer systems have problems keeping track of those patients, the ratio of nurses-per-patient explodes and it becomes to the point where triage nurse is basically the worst job in the hospital because the waiting room is full and nobody gets seen and then bad things happen to patients, which is really, really unfortunate."

Boucher said the ASMUQ has spoken to doctors at Anna-Laberge and they were very distressed. Losing patients who haven't seen a doctor is "our nightmare."

"People are going to be pointing fingers at the people who made the decision to put them in the waiting room, but, really, we're putting them in an impossible situation where day after day after day nobody gets seen, and the waiting room is full," he said.

Boucher said some doctors have told the ASMUQ that they can only see between eight and 10 patients a day because there are no rooms, no nurses and no stretchers.

"It's quite distressing," he said.

In addition, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé visited Anna-Laberge Hospital on Sunday.

"The events reported are extremely worrying," he said. "Our thoughts are with the families affected."

Dubé says he hoped "to take the pulse of what was happening on the ground" and speak with the people working.

"One thing is certain: we need to improve the situation in our emergency rooms," said the health minister. "But also throughout the patient pathway, from before they arrive at the hospital to after they leave."

Anna-Laberge Hospital has a reputation for having the longest ER wait times in Quebec.

According to a recent study by the Montreal Economic Institute, patients spent an average of 10 hours and 27 minutes in the ER in 2022.

Across the province, patients needing immediate medical attention waited an average of five hours and 11 minutes.

Boucher said that if nothing is done to relieve stress on emergency rooms that are well above capacity, more situations like the one at Anna-Laberge will happen. 

"Anna-Laberge is over 200 per cent again this morning!" he said. "Despite the minister going there on Thursday, despite the tremendous amount of pressure in the hospital, they're still in their same set up and there are other hospitals at 200 per cent day in and day out for many weeks... We need the entire system to help us."

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