Montreal woman demands change after 65-year-old father dies waiting for ambulance

·3 min read
Myron Cybriwski, right, died back in May after waiting 11 hours for an ambulance in Montreal. His daughter, Stephanie Cybriwski, left, says the service needs to improve. (submitted by Stephanie Cybriwski - image credit)
Myron Cybriwski, right, died back in May after waiting 11 hours for an ambulance in Montreal. His daughter, Stephanie Cybriwski, left, says the service needs to improve. (submitted by Stephanie Cybriwski - image credit)

On May 14, Montreal resident Myron Cybriwski called 911 at 5:22 a.m. The 65-year-old told the dispatcher he had fallen a week earlier and had hit his head.

"I am bedridden," he said in French, according to the audio recording of the call that was reviewed by CBC News.

"I have a little headache."

Cybriwski was told an ambulance could take up to seven hours to get there and he should call back later if his condition worsened.

He called back twice. Once, 13 minutes later, and then again two hours after that. In the second call, he told the dispatcher that he did not want to wait.

An Urgences-santé ambulance arrived 11 hours after the first call. Cybriwski was dead.

"He knew something was wrong," said his daughter, Stephanie Cybriwski.

She said he sounded confused in the audio recordings, complaining about different ailments in each call. And he was not someone who complained often, she said.

As an only child, she says her dad was her best friend. And while there were some years apart in adulthood, his retirement was bringing them close together again.

Stephanie Cybriwski says her father loved golf and the Rolling Stones. She surprised him in 2019 with tickets to see the band perform in Boston. Sixty-five was still young, she said, and she was looking forward to many more years with him.

She's now calling on the Quebec government to improve emergency response times so something like this doesn't happen again.

"Change is needed," she said.

Investigation underway

A spokesperson for Urgences-santé said there were a high number of calls that day but would not comment further because a coroner's investigation is underway.

That investigation will shed light onto the cause of death, said Sylvain Gobeil, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry.

"This is a very sad situation and our hearts go out to the family and loved ones," he said in an email.

"Everything is done to avoid these situations."

Submitted by Stephanie Cybriwski
Submitted by Stephanie Cybriwski

Until the investigation is complete, the ministry will not be commenting further on the case, he said.

But actions to improve the situation have already been taken, he added. Until Sept. 26, ambulance workers are getting double-pay for all overtime.

"This should help foster a greater presence at work," Gobeil said.

Union says more staff needed

For months now, Luc Baumont has been telling reporters that Urgences-santé is struggling to respond to calls in a timely manner.

"We are short-staffed. We are missing people every day. Especially at night," said Baumont, spokesperson for the paramedics' union, part of the Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux.

In July, a 91-year-old woman was found dead in Montreal after a seven-hour wait for help to arrive.

"If you get about 1,000 calls per day and you don't have the resources to respond to those calls, situations like these will happen," said Baumont.

There's a growing sense of despair and exhaustion among ambulance staff as many consider leaving the profession due the difficulties they are facing at work, he said.

"People are not that interested in coming in for overtime," Baumont said.

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