An 80-year-old great-grandmother waited almost seven hours in a city emergency room before being treated for a minor heart attack, her family said.
She died in the hospital a day later.
Now, her daughters are looking for answers.
"We were never told how serious this could be," said Cathy Hunter. "If we would have known, we would have stayed with her 24/7. And unfortunately, she passed (away) and we weren't there."
Hunter said her mother Joyce was diagnosed with a terminal illness in January. Her doctors said she had nine months to live, so her family started making plans for the rest of their time together.
"We were planning to have a beautiful summer with her. We were talking about flowers and just spending some good, quality time with her. She loved summer," Hunter said.
Hunter said she and her two sisters took their mother to emergency at St. Boniface Hospital on May 6 after she started experiencing shortness of breath. Their mother had survived a massive heart attack just over three years earlier, so Hunter said she and her sisters were worried when they noticed one of the warning signs.
They arrived at triage at 5:20 p.m., and staff shortly took Joyce’s blood and did an EKG test — but the family didn’t get in to see a doctor who could give them the results until after midnight, Hunter said.
Monica Reynolds said she’ll never forget watching her mother suffer in the emergency room that night as other patients arrived and were treated.
"She asked, ‘How about me? Is this how they treat dying patients?’" Reynolds said.
In an emailed statement to the Free Press, a hospital spokesperson said the facility cannot comment publicly on specific cases because of patient confidentiality and privacy laws. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority echoed that statement.
Hunter said when her mother finally got in to see a doctor that night, they were told Joyce had suffered a small heart attack.
"I was under the impression that when you go into a hospital emergency (room) that cardiac issues were a priority," she said. "We’re struggling because we’re thinking maybe if my mom was seen earlier, maybe she’d still be alive. "
Staff told the family they wanted to keep Joyce at the hospital for a few days, as her medications were being changed, Hunter said, adding there was never any indication that there was something to worry about. When the hospital called family the following night to report her death, it came as a shock. Hunter said.
"Maybe they couldn't do anything for her heart, but look at her last 24 hours and how she was treated," she said.
Hunter said she’s wondering if recent changes to staffing at the hospital played a role in her mother’s death.
"What's so horrible about this is that my mom talked about this, about (changes to) our health-care system.... And this is how she died, because of our health-care system. It’s just horrible."
Hunter said a representative from the hospital reached out to their family Friday afternoon to set up a meeting next week.
Updated on Friday, June 14, 2019 at 7:11 PM CDT: Updates story