Hospitals in Gatineau, Quebec, which is part of the National Capital Region along with Ottawa, have the highest rates of deaths caused by medical errors in the province, according to Montreal-based newspaper La Presse. The situation in Gatineau is exactly what Ontario medical malpractice lawyers fear will happen if hospital overcrowding is not addressed.

In August, the regional healthcare workers’ union, the Syndicat des professionelles en soins de l’Outaouais (SPSO), advised Gatineau residents to seek medical care across the Ottawa River. It said its members were exhausted from working too much overtime and as such were more likely to commit errors.

“They are tired, overworked,” the union’s acting president, Patrick Guay, told CBC Ottawa in a French-language interview. “We’re asking them to do overtime all the time, mandatory overtime. It’s a problem everywhere. It’s endemic.”

“Our health-care workers want to provide care safely – quality care – but when they’re overworked [and] they have to do overtime, it increases the risk of errors,” he added.

Medical errors were linked to 34 deaths at Gatineau Hospital alone in the last decade. La Presse also identified 15 deaths at the Hull Hospital between 1998 and 2018. Medical malpractice lawyers are accustomed to the outcomes of serious medical errors, but rarely do so many fatalities occur at hospitals in cities as small as Gatineau, which has a population of less than 300,000.

We recently discussed on this blog how a medication error at Gatineau Hospital contributed to the death of 85-year-old William Madaire in 2017. The CBC also recounted the experience of truck mechanic Tyler Simard, who visited Hull Hospital with acute pancreatitis in 2011, but was left untreated and unobserved in a hospital bed for three days. He left, went to Ottawa, and underwent surgery within hours.

While the union blames overwork for the high number of errors, the local health authority, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO), believes the hospitals have failed to uphold an appropriate standard of care.

“I think there is an absence of controls, of rigour … a lack, perhaps, of consequences,” CISSSO CEO Josée Filion told CBC Ottawa, also in French. “Not all people are sloppy in their practice, but how precisely we intervene with people who are [needs to be addressed].”

Whoever is to blame for the situation in Gatineau, it mirrors the conditions that medical malpractice lawyers want to avoid in Ontario. There is ample evidence that hospital overcrowding, which we discussed last week, leads to overwork and stress, which in turn lead to avoidable errors by medical professionals.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a medical setting, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced medical malpractice lawyers will assess the viability of your claim and explain your legal options.


Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shane M. Phipps

Greg Neinstein