British Columbia

'He took his last breath in my arms': Retired Kamloops doctor died in hospital waiting room, wife says

Janice Joneja says her husband Dr. Rajinder Joneja, a retired neurologist and psychiatrist, died in the waiting room of Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops because he didn't get the help he needed.

Wife of neurologist says husband went into cardiac arrest at Royal Inland Hospital

Retired neurosurgeon and psychiatrist Dr. Rajinder Joneja died with his wife Janice at his side in a hospital waiting room in Kamloops. (Nalini Joneja)

Janice Joneja is heartbroken after her husband, a prominent retired neurologist, died in the waiting room of the emergency department at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, B.C., because, she says, he didn't get the help he needed.

Joneja says her husband dedicated his entire life to serving his community only to die of a heart attack before he could be treated, calling it, "a very agonizing experience for both of us."

I held him, and I told him "I'm with you. I'm here." He took his last breath in my arms.- Janice Joneja

Joneja who is a registered dietitian, says she brought her husband, Dr. Rajinder Joneja, to the hospital on March 12 and told medical staff he was suffering from acute chest pain.

She says her husband told a triage nurse about his medical history and chest pain symptoms and he was given two aspirin tablets without water and told to wait until he could be seen by a physician.

But after five minutes, Joneja says her husband went into cardiac arrest while she tried to flag a passing staff member.

She says help was too late in coming and he died in the hospital waiting room.

"I sat beside him, I held him, and I told him, 'I'm with you. I'm here.' He took his last breath in my arms."

Joneja wrote a letter to B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake, the Liberal MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson, and to medical staff at Royal Inland Hospital, urging them to take steps to ensure better medical treatment.

"No one, regardless of their position, should pass from this life in such traumatic, public and obviously avoidable circumstances."

Interior Health response

Heather Cook, executive director for acute services in Interior Health's West region, says health officials are reviewing Dr. Joneja's case and will be informing the family as the review is completed.

"Interior Health wishes to acknowledge the loss of a long-time member of the medical community. We know this is a difficult time for the family."

Cook said in a statement that concerns over whether anything could have been done differently will be examined.

"As part of our review, we will be looking into whether protocols were followed. For example, in suspect cardiac cases, standard protocol is to provide a patient with aspirin, and for it to be chewed rather than swallowed to allow for quicker effect."

Joneja believes medical staff should have transferred him immediately to a bed or trauma room. 

She pointed out the city is in dire need of a cardiology clinic similar to one in Kelowna, B.C. 

Read Janice Joneja's letter to health minister


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