A Quebec coroner says wait times at a Trois-Rivières, Que., hospital last February were unacceptable when an elderly man died in an ambulance while awaiting treatment.
Coroner Francine Danais released her report looking into the Feb. 9 death of 87-year-old Jean-Guy Rancourt, who spent almost two hours in the ambulance garage of the Saint-Marie Hospital before he went into cardiac arrest.
He had requested not to be resuscitated and was pronounced dead.
Danais says Rancourt hadn't even been triaged by the time he died, which, she says, is a major concern.
"It is worrisome to note that, after more than an hour-and-a-half of waiting in the hospital's garage, Mr. Rancourt's condition had still not been assessed by a nurse in order to assign him a priority rating," she said.
In her report, Danais cites the regional health authority, which said the hospital's emergency room had an occupancy rate of 140 per cent when Rancourt's ambulance arrived, and his was one of nine ambulances waiting to get in.
There were three physicians on duty as well as three nurses working in emergency room triage that day.
Although Danais denounced the long wait times, she says Rancourt was in a terminal state by the time the ambulance was called. She concluded that he died of natural causes.
The report states Rancourt was severely dehydrated and malnourished when he got to the hospital, having spent weeks lying on the couch and refusing to eat or drink, according to the caregiver who called the ambulance that day.
Rancourt had also refused to undergo dialysis or take his medications, which the coroner says would have been essential to his survival.
Rancourt was suffering from kidney failure and anemia, as well as chronic issues with his lungs and heart.
"These elements, in addition to other health problems, were determining factors in Mr. Rancourt's chances of survival much more than the wait," Danais said.
The coroner says the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de la Mauricie-et-du-Centre-du-Québec (CIUSSS-MCQ) has already implemented steps to improve its emergency room protocols and she therefore has no new recommendations.
The CIUSSS-MCQ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.