A Dartmouth woman is speaking out about hospital overcrowding after her husband endured a wait of close to two-days on a gurney in a Dartmouth General emergency room before getting a bed in the hospital.

Scott Carroll was taken to hospital on Tuesday morning after turning blue at home from lack of oxygen. He survived thyroid cancer seven years ago and is particularly susceptible to lung problems.

The diagnosis was aspirated pneumonia and he was admitted to hospital within two hours, but that was just the beginning of his stay in the emergency department.

His wife Cynthia Carroll says she is no stranger to the health system, but she says she's never seen a wait like this before. 

"I had no idea that there was this kind of overcrowding issue in the hospital. It was very surprising,” she said. "Probably an hour or so we got the diagnosis, and were told that he would be staying in hospital for a period of time because his lungs were not able to breathe on their own."

Cynthia Carroll

Cynthia Carroll says she sympathizes with hospital workers who have to deal with the juggling act, but she wants patients in this situation to be made more comfortable. (CBC)

Staff explained to the couple there was no bed for him upstairs, so the Carrolls were told he'd have to wait on a stretcher in the ER. He stayed there until Wednesday night, while Cynthia juggled hospital and home.

"He was no longer under the care of emergency doctors, he was still on a gurney,” she says. “He had a horrible night in the ER. I felt incredibly guilty in leaving him."

When Scott was finally moved to a ward, the Carrolls discovered the crowding there was just as bad.

"The family lounge area, which had a bathroom, was also being used for a patient. So it was blocked off," she said.

Heather Francis is house services director at the Dartmouth General Hospital and says it’s a tough situation.

"Our hospital's been running at 100 per cent capacity for really over probably the last two to three years,” she says. “So we really need to wait for patient discharges in order to get patients up from the emergency department."

Francis said a few years ago an average of nine people a day were admitted to hospital from ER. That has since risen to 12 a day, without adding increased capacity in the hospital.

Cynthia Carroll says she sympathizes with hospital workers who have to deal with the juggling act, but she wants patients in this situation to be made more comfortable.