N.B. couple desperate for medical attention have no luck at 3 health centres

·3 min read
Rather than going home after visiting two health centres and a pharmacist during their quest for urgent care, a Saint John couple decided to try their luck in Fredericton. (Joe McDonald/CBC - image credit)
Rather than going home after visiting two health centres and a pharmacist during their quest for urgent care, a Saint John couple decided to try their luck in Fredericton. (Joe McDonald/CBC - image credit)

With his wife in need of care for severe abdominal pain, Saint John's Morgan Lanigan rushed to the St. Joseph Hospital  urgent care centre to get help.

Within 15 seconds of arriving, they were told to come back at 9 a.m the next day.

The ER at the Saint John Regional Hospital was also over-capacity, Lanigan said.

"We had to go to a pharmacist to see if we could get any assistance there," said Lanigan.

In a series of tweets, Lanigan said the pharmacist was able to provide Tylenol and Advil.

Took chance on Fredericton

But in desperation, Lanigan decided he and his wife should head to Fredericton, more than an hour's drive away, to try the emergency room at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital.

"If we couldn't get help in Fredericton, I was prepared to drive to Moncton," Lanigan said in an interview on CBC's Shift. 

"And if we couldn't get help in Moncton, I was prepared to drive to Nova Scotia — whatever it took to get her help."

When the couple arrived at the Chalmers, the ER staff confirmed they were taking patients. But the wait time was 10 to 12 hours, Lanigan said, and that was after his wife's case was triaged.

The waiting room was packed to the brim, he said.

Matthew Bingley/CBC
Matthew Bingley/CBC

After the couple had been there three hours, a doctor came out into the waiting room and began to take the vitals of the patients waiting to be seen, including Lanigan's wife.

The doctor was candid about the staffing, Lanigan said, The ER had enough doctors that night, he was told, but it had only two nurses. The doctors had to step up and take on some of the nurses' work, but the shortage still  caused quite a delay.

"It tells you the degree that our medical professionals are prepared to go to to help support the system," Lanigan said. "But it was unbelievable to have to experience that ourselves, to be able to see exactly what the consequences of that are for patients like my wife."

On the advice of the Fredericton doctor, he drove his wife home to rest, and they called their family doctor in the morning. All of this took less time than the wait in the emergency room would have taken, said Lanigan, who's wife was feeling  better Monday afternoon.

While he had heard that the province's health-care system was stretched, Lanigan said it wasn't until Sunday night, when his wife needed care, that he really understood just how bad things were.

Fears stories still to come

"I hate to think of all the consequences of all the stories that we haven't heard of yet or that we are yet to hear until this is resolved, because it's going to take us a long time to get out of it," he said.

The couple's experience less than a week after Horizon Health Network confirmed the death of a patient in the ER waiting room at the Chalmers.

At the end of the week, Premier Blaine replaced Dorothy Shephard as the health minister, fired Horizon CEO John Dornan and removed the boards of directors of both Horizon and Vitalité, replacing them with two trustees.

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