Picture of senior waiting for hours in St. John's emergency room sparks outrage

"I want our government to realize how bad our health care is."

Eastern Health says flu season is making emergency rooms busier

Marguerite Drake says the woman seemed to be in 'distress and discomfort.' (Marguerite Drake/Facebook)

Health officials in St. John's are investigating the circumstances surrounding a picture that has gone viral since being posted on Facebook Thursday morning.

The picture of an unidentified elderly woman stretched across three chairs in the waiting room of the Health Sciences Complex was taken by Marguerite Drake.

I want our government to realize how bad our health care is.- Marguerite Drake

There have been thousands of shares and comments on Facebook — most of those comments critical of health officials for allowing it to happen.

Drake, who is from Burin, went to the emergency room early Thursday morning. She said she was there when an 81-year-old woman arrived via ambulance at about 5:30 a.m.

Drake said the elderly woman "seemed to be in distress and discomfort."

Drake says the woman was lying on the chairs in the ER at the Health Sciences Centre for at least three hours. (CBC)

But the elderly woman's daughter told Drake that because her mother's vital signs were fine, they were told to take a seat in the waiting room.

After more than an hour, Drake watched as the woman's daughter tried to make her mom more comfortable by rolling up her own jacket and placing it against the wall for her to lean on, but said the jacket kept falling.

"She kept on asking for places to lie down," Drake told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

'What are we going to do?'

Eventually, Drake said she asked the younger woman if she could take a picture of the sleeping woman and post it on Facebook. Drake said the woman responded, "Definitely."

"I want our government to realize how bad our health care is," Drake said.

Drake tagged Liberal MHA Mark Browne on her Facebook post that included the photo in the hopes it would be brought to the attention of Premier Dwight Ball. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

She went on to say she tagged her area MHAs in the hopes that Premier Dwight Ball will see it.

"I want Dwight to look at that (picture) and say something has to be done, what are we going to do?"

It's unclear how much longer the woman was lying on the chairs in the emergency room, as Drake left the ER around 8:30 a.m.

Eastern Health responds

A spokesperson for the regional health authority said they were "concerned to learn about the situation being shared on social media."

"As soon as we became aware, management at the Health Sciences Centre Emergency Department met with the patient and family member and others who had been waiting to apologize for the wait time and to reassure them that we were working to get them in to be assessed as soon as possible," a statement reads.

The spokesperson said they are seeing an increase in emergency admissions due to the current flu season and are looking for ways to curb wait times.

About the Author

Fred Hutton

CBC News

Fred Hutton co-hosts the St. John's Morning Show, and contributes to Here & Now and CBC N.L.'s digital platforms.


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