A Moncton, N.B., woman wants to know why she was told to call for an ambulance when she was parked in front of the entrance to the Moncton Hospital's emergency room with her husband in the car writhing in pain.

Candy Price drove her husband, Scott MacDonald, to the hospital on July 13, but when she arrived, she said a nurse told her that she had to call 911 so paramedics could bring her husband into the hospital. According to a doctor who works at the hospital, there are no staff designated to transfer people unable to walk into the hospital.

But, Price says her husband was screaming in pain, drenched in sweat and unable to sit or walk.

When Price called 911, she said the operator seemed to be in disbelief at her request.

"She said, 'Where are you,' and I said, 'The city hospital at [the] emergency [room] doors,'  and she said, 'Excuse me?' Price said.

"Then she got the paramedics on the phone and they asked the same question, 'You're where?' And I repeated it again and when they got there they were upset looking."

According to Price, one of the paramedics went inside and came out with the head nurse, who denied knowing what had unfolded.

"[The paramedic] said, 'This is … ridiculous for us to be called when they're right here at the emergency entrance,'" she said.

Policy on moving patients out of cars

Dr. Serge Melanson

Dr. Serge Melanson, the chief of staff at the Moncton Hospital, said there are no staff designated to the specific task of helping patients unable to walk into the hospital. (Michel Nogue/Radio-Canada)

Dr. Serge Melanson, an emergency room physician and chief of staff at the Moncton Hospital, would not comment on the specific incident described by Price.

He said there are no staff members designated to the specific task of helping patients unable to walk into the hospital.

Inside the hospital, there are staff designated to move patients.

"We do not have portering staff to attend patients in our parking lot," he said.

According to Melanson, that duty falls primarily on nurses, who are not specifically trained in how to extract patients from cars safely.

When nurses do not feel they can safely remove a patient from a car and bring them into the hospital, Melanson said they sometimes delegate that task to a paramedic.

"There's no policy indicating to patients that they need to call 911 to be brought into the emergency department," he said.

"That would be a decision made at the time by a staff person, they would use their clinical judgment, and decide that that was the best solution to get them in."

'He was … screaming in pain'

NB-si-Moncton-hospital

Price also said her husband was discharged from the hospital before she returned and found him outside standing next to a pole. (CBC)

Price and MacDonald said this was not the end of their troubles.

Once they were inside the hospital, MacDonald was placed in a bed and they said they were offered no help when he had to walk from the bed to an examination room.

"He was literally screaming in pain," Price said. 

MacDonald said he was given a cocktail of painkillers by a doctor, who then told him he had suffered a severe muscle spasm.

"He was never offered scans or X-rays or anything," MacDonald said.

MacDonald was then told by a nurse to leave the room as he had been discharged.

He told the nurse that his wife had left to get him clean clothes, but he says she responded that the room was needed for another patient.

Price said she was horrified when she returned to the hospital.

"When I pulled into emergency parking lot, I saw somebody wrapped around a pole in a hospital gown. I was thinking, 'Oh my goodness why would they let anybody out of the hospital like that,'" Price said.

"As I got closer I realized it was my husband."

MacDonald was slurring his words and disoriented because of the painkillers, according to his wife.

"The state that he was in, he could have very well not have realized what was happening. He could have wandered up onto Connaught [Avenue] and got hit by a car," Price said.

Melanson said there are procedures in place to deal with a situation where someone is ready to be discharged but there is no one on hand to safely bring them home.

He said discharged patients can wait in the emergency room waiting rooms.

"We do not discharge patients out of the hospital until they have a loved one or a family member who can come to their aid," he said.

Price and MacDonald have made a complaint to Horizon Health's patient representative, who is investigating the matter.

Price also said she has no plans to pay the $130 ambulance fee.