Manitoba

Man who went into cardiac arrest at St. Boniface Hospital's ER taken off life support

Terence Gee, 71, was a retired RCMP officer. He waited for approximately 4 hours for care in the ER. His family says he could still be with them had he been monitored while waiting.

Terence Gee, 71, was unmonitored in the ER and waited 4 hours for care. He died on Friday.

Terence Gee, 71, is pictured in the middle with his wife, children and grandchildren. Gee passed away on Friday after being taken off life support. (Submitted by Toivi Penner)

Toivi Penner said goodbye to her father Terence Gee on early Friday evening, after doctors said he lost too much oxygen to his brain and will no longer have cognitive function.

"It was just sad ... it shouldn't have happened this way for him," she said. 

This comes after Gee suffered from cardiac arrest on Tuesday evening after waiting four hours for care at St. Boniface Hospital's emergency department. 

A doctor and a nurse have told her he was unmonitored while he was waiting in the EMS area, Penner said.

"He served his country for 34 years, this feels like a disservice to him. If he would have had a family member with him or been on a monitor, we feel he would still be with us," said Penner. 

Gee's death comes in the midst of a severe staff shortage at St. Boniface Hospital. In recent weeks, emergency staff there have sounded the alarm on dangerous ER wait times and dire shortage of beds. 

Penner said her father was a retired RCMP officer. He struggled with diabetes and kidney failure. 

"I think we all fully expected that when he died, it would be from an infection or kidney related, but not like this," she said. 

Terence Gee pictured next to his wife, Debbie Gee (Submitted by Toivi Penner)

Gee died with his wife, Debbie Gee, and two daughters, Jennie Gee and Penner, by his side. He was 71 years old.  

CBC asked WRHA to provide comments. In an email, a spokesperson said the health authority cannot discuss an individual's care with the public. 

Father was found unmonitored while waiting 

Penner said her father was at Seven Oaks Hospital for an iron infusion and doctors there said he needed cardiac care because had difficulty breathing, so they transferred him to St. Boniface Hospital by ambulance. 

When he arrived at St. Boniface Hospital, he was on oxygen, she said. 

After going into cardiac arrest, Gee was resuscitated by emergency staff in the middle of the hallway in front of other patients, emergency staff told CBC News. 

Penner said around 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, she received a call from hospital staff saying her father had a cardiac event. 

Penner said she was unaware her father was unmonitored in the ER until she read a CBC News article. She said when a doctor initially met with her, this information wasn't disclosed — and she had to beg for it. 

"I felt like the report she was giving us, which came from the ER, wasn't complete and perhaps not even truthful," said Penner. 

In a second meeting, a doctor and a nurse told her he was unmonitored in the EMS waiting area and was prioritized to be checked on once per hour, said Penner. 

She said staff doesn't know how long Gee was unmonitored for, and he could've been down for 10 to 15 minutes before staff found him in cardiac arrest.

Terence Gee pictured with his wife Debbie Gee on their wedding day. (Submitted by Toivi Penner)

"That is basic care to give any person coming into a hospital," Penner said. "Even if they don't see a doctor, maybe they don't even see a nurse, but somebody [is assigned] to monitor their vital signs." 

Penner said after the event, her dad was taken to a resuscitation room. He then experienced seizures and was put on a ventilator. 

"He had no basic reflexes anymore. He was completely brain dead and would never be able to recover," she said.  

Penner said that's when she and her family decided to take her father off life support.  

"He was not a person that wanted to live with somebody looking after him or live in a vegetative state, we all knew that," she said. "It really wasn't a question at all. We knew that that's what he would want."

'This is a real person' 

Penner said her father joined the RCMP when he was 18 and retired in 2008. He was a classic car lover and was part of the Manitoba Mustang club, she said. 

"He just had a big heart. He would help anybody who would do anything for anybody, he would give anybody anything they needed. He adored his grandkids," said Penner. 

Toivi Penner said her father Terence Gee was a retired RCMP officer. He served for 34 years before passing. (Submitted by Toivi Penner)

She said she doesn't know what her next steps are, but her family is supporting each other through this difficult time and she doesn't blame anyone at the hospital. 

WRHA said a report has been made to St. Boniface's Hospital's patient safety team and they're now reviewing if the event meets critical incident criteria under provincial legislation

Penner said clearly, some type of change is needed for Manitoba's health-care system — although she doesn't know what the first step to fixing it will be. She hopes more health-care workers will speak up about systemic issues in their workplace. 

"Everything is a big blur and overwhelming, but I felt it was important that other people hear this is a real person. This is a real scenario and it can happen to you next," said Penner. 

Man who went into cardiac arrest at St. Boniface Hospital's ER taken off life support

4 months ago
2:09
The family of a man who died after going into cardiac arrest at St. Boniface Hospital ER want answers. He waited 4 hours for care without monitoring until staff noticed he was in distress. In recent days, staff have sounded the alarm on dangerous wait times warning of situations just like this. 2:09

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peggy Lam

Reporter

Peggy is a reporter based in Winnipeg. She has worked for the CBC in Vancouver, Toronto, St. John's, Kitchener-Waterloo and Edmonton. Got a story idea? Email her at peggy.lam@cbc.ca or tweet her @peggylam_

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