Coroner links second death to slow ambulance service in Lévis, Que.

·3 min read
Marcel Aubin called 911 and then waited almost an hour before an ambulance was available to tend to his wife of 50 years, Monique Labrecque, 72, right. She died of cardiac arrest.   (Submitted by Amélie Aubin - image credit)
Marcel Aubin called 911 and then waited almost an hour before an ambulance was available to tend to his wife of 50 years, Monique Labrecque, 72, right. She died of cardiac arrest. (Submitted by Amélie Aubin - image credit)

A coroner is once again recommending the province and local health officials improve ambulance service in Lévis, Que., after a woman died when an ambulance dispatched to her house was rerouted to a more urgent call.

Monique Labrecque, 72, died of cardiac arrest in May 2020, shortly after a second ambulance dispatched to her house finally arrived.

That was nearly an hour after her husband first called 911.

"Could Ms. Labrecque's death have been avoided if the first paramedics on the scene had been able to take care of her? It is certain that these chances of survival would have been better," coroner Geneviève Thériault said in her report,. released Wednesday.

Thériault noted that the issue of ambulance service in Lévis had already been raised in another coroner's report released the same month Labrecque died.

That report dealt with the death of a 24-year-old man who, like Labrecque, had heart problems and died after waiting 20 minutes for an ambulance.

Thériault said that 2020 report recommended the Health Ministry and the regional health agency for Chaudières-Appalaches "consult with each other to examine the issue of ambulance personnel on the territory of Lévis" and assess ways to improve service.

She said that work still isn't finished.

"It appears that this assessment is still ongoing," Thériault said.

Her sole recommendation is that the ministry and the regional health agency "promptly complete" the evaluation and make any changes deemed necessary.

Union, family say Quebec hasn't done enough

In a statement, a spokesperson for Health Minister Christian Dubé said the province has already improved ambulance service in Lévis, adding 16 hours per week of  service since 2020.

Thériault noted this increase in her report but also noted that it was far less than what the union representing paramedics is calling for — 180 hours of additional ambulance service.

"I'll raise the same question that I raised two years ago: who will accept responsibility for this?" Jean-François Gagné, spokesperson for the paramedics' union, the Fédération des employés des services préhospitaliers du Québec, told Radio-Canada in an interview Wednesday.

Submitted by Amélie Aubin
Submitted by Amélie Aubin

"There are people who lost family, whose family members did not necessarily get the service they needed," Gagné said.

"I can't believe in 2022 we live like this," Labrecque's husband, Marcel Aubut, told Radio-Canada.

"There are small corners of the province which have fewer people than Lévis, and they have more ambulances," Aubut said.

"There's something not working there."

While things can always be improved, the health minister said in his statement, the ambulance coverage in Lévis is sufficient.

"Currently, the response time in Lévis is comparable to national standards, approximately nine minutes for the most urgent calls," the statement said.

At the National Assembly Wednesday, Dubé told reporters he wasn't familiar with the details of the coroner's report, but he noted that just last week, he announced an investment of $28 million to improve ambulance service in 50 regions across the province, including Lévis.

"I think the measures we announced last week will make a big difference," Dubé said.

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