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Quebec Health Minister responds 'this kind of mistake happens' when asked about patient death in ER toilet

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube responds to the Opposition during question period, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023 at the legislature in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot, The Canadian Press) Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube responds to the Opposition during question period, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023 at the legislature in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot, The Canadian Press)
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When asked on Thursday about the death of a 73-year-old woman in a Joliette emergency department toilet, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé replied, "this kind of error happens."

France Boisclair died of an aneurysm on Aug. 11 after waiting 17 hours in the emergency room without seeing a single doctor, Le Journal de Montréal reported after reading the coroner's report.

During question period on Thursday, when Liberal health critic André Fortin asked about the death, Dubé said he had read the report.

He explained that "this is an issue of triage and management."

"The nurse (...) will give a priority level. (...) In this case, it would seem, according to the initial data we have, that there was a diagnostic error in terms of priority. It's very unfortunate," said Dubé. "This kind of error does happen. We shouldn't generalize. Major improvements have been made in Joliette."

Fortin said that "nothing is improving in emergency."

He also pointed out that since December, three patients have died in the Chateauguay emergency department before seeing a doctor.

To back up his claims, the Liberal MNA cited a recent study by the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI), which showed that there had been no improvement in emergency room waiting times.

"The minister presents plan after plan after plan, but he is failing, failing, failing. Why is he incapable of improving the situation in emergency departments?" said Fortin.

"On the contrary," replied Dubé. "Emergency departments are improving, as evidenced by the fact that they are now treating a higher volume of patients, including the elderly. I took stock of the situation with the CEOs and told them: 'Well done! We're heading in the right direction.'"

Fortin pointed out that on Thursday morning, the average occupancy rate at the Châteauguay emergency department, for example, was 181 per cent.

"Patients were waiting in emergency for 10 hours and 15 minutes," he said. "That's seven and a half times the Coalition Avenir Québec's promise of 90 minutes, and 181 per cent is well above the 150 per cent threshold for placing patients at risk."

In a news scrum, Dubé said that some establishments were improving faster than others.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 21, 2024. 

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