Officials pledge better communication in light of Hull Hospital backlog

Officials at the Hull Hospital are pledging to better communicate with patients after what they're calling a "perfect storm" delayed and cancelled a slew of surgeries over the last week.

1 man spent days unnecessarily fasting after surgery was repeatedly pushed back

Officials at the Hull Hospital say a backlog for orthopedic surgeries caused by an influx of patients is clearing up. (Michel Aspirot/Radio-Canada)

Officials at the Hull Hospital are pledging to better communicate with patients after what they're calling a "perfect storm" delayed and cancelled a slew of surgeries over the last week.

At one point more than 20 orthopedic patients were on the hospital's wait list, without an accurate idea of when they'd be seen. 

Jean-Pierre Martel's van was struck by a truck on Highway 148 on July 23, sending him to Hull Hospital with a fractured left arm. 

After getting a few stitches, he was sent home from the emergency room and told to return for orthopedic surgery to deal with the fracture and a damaged radial nerve. 

Martel expected to be operated on two days later, on Wednesday, but the surgery was postponed. That started a daily cycle of fasting and waiting in hospital, which wasn't broken until he finally made it to the operating table on Sunday. 

One day, Martel held off from eating for a full nine hours, only to be told to return the next day.

"It makes you feel uncomfortable to be fasting, not to have lunch, to be on hold, to take pain medication to move [between the hospital and your home]," he said in a French-language interview.

"I can understand that there are emergencies," he said, "but if I'm not next, let me know so that I can eat, so that I can at least try to find a solution or transfer elsewhere."

Jean-Pierre Martel says his urgent operation at the Hull Hospital was postponed day after day, forcing him to repeatedly fast. (Estelle Côté-Stroka/Radio-Canada)

Perfect storm

Daniel Tardif, the facility's chief medical officer, said that over several days last week an influx of emergency patients hit the hospital and less urgent cases continued to pile up.

"It is a bit of a perfect storm, actually," he said. "It happened like that for four days in a row and then on Friday we got six new cases."

Low summer staffing levels also contributed to the problem. 

At a news conference Monday afternoon, Gail Ryan, the hospital's director of nursing, said she believes the situation is changing and officials hope the backlog will soon clear. 

Both Tardif and Ryan said the hospital also plans to improve how it communicates with patients so they aren't left waiting without any answers.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said there need to be adjustments at the hospital, and is asking the local health authority to dedicate more resources to reducing wait times and consider transferring patients to other hospitals in Quebec and Ontario.

MNA pleased 

Hull MNA Maryse Gaudreault met with senior executives at Hull Hospital on Monday, after earlier expressing concerns that extra staff weren't brought in to deal with the backlog.

She said she's satisfied with the promises made by staff.

"We had a lot of operations during the weekend, but the people were not well informed about when their operation would go through and why they had to wait that long," she said.

She said her takeaway is that the hospital needs to provide patients with clearer expectations, and not necessarily invest more funds. 

"For now it is a communication problem and a prioritization problem," she said. "We have to be more careful. It doesn't cost any money to do that."

With files from Estelle Côté-Sroka