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'You can't wait 16 hours': Quebec doctor says patient died after lengthy ER wait

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A Quebec doctor is sounding the alarm on the "dangerous" wait times plaguing hospital emergency rooms after he said he had a patient die in front of him after the man waited 16 hours to receive urgent care.

Dr. Sébastien Marin is an emergency room doctor at Barrie Memorial Hospital in Ormstown, Que., about 65 kilometres southwest of Montreal.

He said the man in his 70s had suffered an aneurysm and died from a ruptured aorta within minutes of arriving at his hospital. The patient had initially waited 16 hours in another hospital but left after not being able to see a doctor, Marin said.

"Honestly, when we have a patient who walks in alive and just dies in front of us, it's always frustrating when we can't do anything. But it's even more frustrating when we know that the patient did the right thing. He tried to get care somewhere and he just didn't get it," Dr. Marin told CTV News on Monday.

"We can't 100 per cent guarantee that the patient would have survived but he would have had a good chance of surviving if we would have started treating his aneurysm at the right time."

'I COULDN'T DO ANYTHING'

Hours after the patient had died, Marin described the ordeal in a series of posts on his Twitter profile to draw attention to ongoing overcrowding issues in Quebec hospitals.

"I couldn't do anything," Marin wrote in a tweet, that was widely shared by others online.

"Once the aneurysm is ruptured, despite all the efforts we put in, there is almost nothing to do except offer our condolences."

In Quebec's Montérégie region, where Marin works, six of the eight emergency rooms were over capacity Monday morning. His hospital was at 60 per cent capacity, whereas the Centre hospitalier Anna-Laberge was at 150 per cent capacity and the Hôpital du Suroît was at 169 per cent capacity.

Last week, the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal was at more than double capacity (230 per cent). As of Monday, most of the ERs on the island were either at or over capacity.

The overcrowding is causing concern for ER doctors who say patients are suffering as a result.

"The situation with the extremely long wait times is dangerous right now. It could be anyone who is a victim of a problem like that and something has to be done," said Marin.

"You can't wait 16 hours in an emergency. If you're in the emergency, you have to be seen faster than that."

In the case of the man in his 70s who died in front him, "His condition was treatable," Marin said, adding that either medication or surgery could have made the difference between life and death.

Too often, patients who don't have anywhere else to go end up in the ER since they don't have a family doctor or speedy access to care at a clinic, Marin said.

By sharing his experience on social media, he said he hoped it will raise awareness about the frail health-care system and lead to change.

During the election campaign, Premier François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) admitted that it wasn't realistic to promise every Quebecer a family doctor. The party had also pledged to create two mini-hospitals — one in Montreal's east end and one in Quebec City — that would include family clinics and an ER for lower-priority cases in order to alleviate the congestion in the province's hospitals.

With files from CTV Montreal's Kelly Greig

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