Ottawa

80% of western Quebec residents lack faith in ERs: poll

Four out of five western Quebec residents have lost faith in hospital emergency rooms after years of inadequate service and chronically long waiting times, according to a poll commissioned by the CBC/Radio-Canada.

Poll released after weekend that saw 19 patients waiting more than 48 hours at Gatineau and Hull emergency rooms

Four out of five western Quebec residents have lost faith in hospital emergency rooms after years of inadequate service and chronically long waiting times, according to a poll commissioned by the CBC/Radio-Canada.

'If you get to a point where you think this is serious and you might need surgery, it's a gamble — it's a gamble with your life.'—Gatineau resident Robert Bureau

The survey of adults in the region was conducted on Feb. 5-11 and had 702 respondents, with 383 considered to be users of emergency services.

The poll results are just one sign of lingering problems even though administrators promised last fall to have a plan in place to fix things by this month. On Sunday night, for example, the emergency departments at the Gatineau and Hull campuses of the Gatineau hospital were 140 per cent over capacity, and 19 patients had been there for more than 48 hours.

"In the emergency department, we have to make sure that patients who can go elsewhere go elsewhere," said André Rodier, director of hospitals and health care in Gatineau. He said that's hard to accomplish with limited resources and with personnel who are already overworked.

He also said it has harder than expected to change the work culture at the two hospitals.

He has met resistance on the part of some doctors and nurses who disagree with him over the way to improve the situation, he told CBC News.

Inadequate ERs a danger: respondents

Gatineau resident Robert Bureau has first-hand knowledge of the problems at the hospitals.

Bureau's son had to be transferred to Montreal to get his appendix removed because there was no bed available for him at the Gatineau hospital.

"If you go in because you have a bad cold and need antibiotics, that's fine. But if you get to a point where you think this is serious and you might need surgery, it's a gamble — it's a gamble with your life," Bureau said.

The CBC poll also showed that two-thirds of respondents said the region's emergency rooms offer such poor service that it puts their health at risk.

Former Hull doctor quit over working conditions

A former doctor at the Hull emergency department, Marie-Charlotte Koenig, agrees.

She worked in the Hull emergency room for 16 years before she quit last fall.

"I felt the working conditions and the way the patients were treated were below my personal standards of care," Koenig said.

The poll also showed that people who went to an emergency room in the city of Gatineau said they had to wait on average more than six hours, while people who to went to emergency rooms elsewhere in West Quebec said they had to wait less than four hours.

The survey was conducted with respondents who were 18 and older. It's considered accurate to within +-3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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