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'They never called us': Quebec woman says husband died while on wait list for heart surgery

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The number of Quebecers waiting for certain types of surgeries has reached a record high, and one Montreal woman says the long wait cost her husband his life.

Sandra Pedersen said the Christmas tree is up for her six grandsons, but she isn't celebrating this year. She's still mourning her husband, Antonio Maggio, a man she describes as the life of the party.

He fought cancer for over 20 years, going through three rounds of chemo and beating it, only to die last month waiting for heart surgery.

"They will call us, they will call us, they will call us ... they never called us," Pedersen recalled in an interview with CTV News.

Maggio was diagnosed with congestive heart failure two years ago and needed an aortic valve replacement at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). The longer he waited, the more his condition worsened.

"He was at home, he was weak, he was discouraged waiting by the phone. Never happened. The phone never rang," his widow said in an interview with CTV News.

A family photo of Antonio Maggio. (Kelly Greig/CTV News)

Those wait times are growing. In Quebec, more than 164,000 people are waiting for non-urgent surgeries like knee, hip and cataract operations.

On top of that, for cancer surgeries done since April 1, the average wait time was 48 days at the Jewish General Hospital and 49 days at the Royal Victoria Hospital. For those still on the list, those same hospitals have over 20 per cent of patients waiting 57 days.

"The waiting lists are increasing," said Dr. Stanley Vollant, a digestive surgeon. He said that with short staffing, procedures keep getting pushed back.

"It takes about a year for the operations to be done. I'm doing operations now for people that I saw last November or last December."

He adds the health-care strikes haven't helped the situation, but supports the nurses, often leaving him with a difficult decision for his patients.

"I had to think twice and three times -- if I delay this operation, are there going to be consequences?" he said.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé did not respond to a request for comment from CTV News about the wait lists.

It's a situation that leaves Pedersen's sorrow tinged with anger.

"Do I know if he had the surgery, if he would have survived? No one knows, but he was never given that chance and that's where the anger is," she said.

Her husband was supposed to have his surgery at the end of November, but after two years of waiting, he died just two weeks before it was supposed to happen.

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