Quebec woman waits 9 years for medical appointment

Valentine Sicotte was surprised when she got a call from Saint-Eustache Hospital last week, saying it finally had an appointment with a gastroenterologist for her.

Valentine Sicotte, 28, wanted to see a gastrointestinal specialist back in 2007

A young woman from Saint-Eustache got an appointment to see a gastro-enterologist nine years after she first requested it. (iStock)

Valentine Sicotte requested an appointment with a specialist at Saint-Eustache Hospital back in 2007. 

Last week, nine years later, she finally got a call back.

"I tried not to laugh on the phone," she said. 

"I couldn't remember even having requested the appointment. I told them to give my place to someone who needed it more."

Sicotte was 19 when she requested the appointment with a gastroenterologist. 

It's unclear why she wasn't contacted for an appointment during all these years.- Alain  Paquette , spokesman for Laurentians CISSS

By the time she heard back, she was 28 and had managed to solve the problem herself through lifestyle and diet changes.

The local health authority, the Laurentians CISSS, couldn't explain why it took so long to get back to her.

"It's unclear why she wasn't contacted for an appointment during all these years," said spokesman Alain Paquette.

"We really need to shine some light on this to better understand what happened. If indeed she was never contacted, this is unacceptable."

The Laurentians CISSS says that the average wait time for an appointment with a gastroenterologist varies from a few days for urgent cases to several months for non-urgent cases.

A 'glitch,' health minister says

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said what happened to Sicotte is an exceptional situation.

"It's a glitch. It is not normal to see that. This is something peculiar," Barrette said.

"I don't think it's something that's rare – it's exceedingly rare – but it did happen."

Paul Brunet, chair of the Council for the Protection of Patients, said such long wait times are a "breach of service."

"It's surreal. Nine years," Brunet said. "I'm sure somewhere in Africa or eastern Europe, she would have gotten services and access to a specialist before that. The problem is that we in Quebec are paying 10 times more what the people in Eastern Europe and Africa pay to have access to their specialists."

Brunet said he himself turned to the private system for a colonoscopy, after waiting three years to get an appointment at a public hospital.

"That's what they push us to do. I had never gotten an email, a fax or a call from the hospital." Brunet said, adding that government cuts to the health care system are to blame.

"We still maintain our support to our government with its cuts. Well, if we support it, let's suffer it."

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With files from Radio-Canada's Thomas Gerbet


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