Death of Andrée Simard |  In pain and distress

Death of Andrée Simard | In pain and distress

The widow of former Prime Minister Robert Bourassa was denied palliative care at St Mary’s Hospital for three endless days

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Michelle Bourassa hasn’t taken off since the end of November. His mother, Andrée Simard, widow of former Prime Minister Robert Bourassa, died at St. Mary’s Hospital Center after three days of unspeakable suffering and deep despair. She was deprived of palliative care, the continuous sedation normally provided for patients at the end of life. A senseless nightmare.

Seemingly useless. As the CIUSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, to which St Mary reports, was informed of Ms Bourassa’s actions at La Presse, they announced shortly before their publication on Thursday that they were “reviewing this will train.

“When I speak about it today, I’m not doing it for her or for me. Our story is over. It only remains for us to digest this horror that we have experienced and to heal our wounds,” wrote Ms. Bourassa in a letter she sent to La Presse. “When I speak, it is for all those who have no right to speak in an intimidating environment of organized chaos. It was a nightmare and is this how we will end? ‘ she continued in an interview this week. Extremely discreetly, Ms Simard had insisted that when she was admitted to St Mary’s Hospital Center it would not be mentioned that she was the wife of the Prime Minister who died in 1996.

Death of Andree Simard In pain and distress

PHOTO PIERRE MCCANN, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Andrée Simard and Robert Bourassa at his re-election in September 1989

“I don’t want to start a grievance process, I just want to wave a flag so we know what’s going on,” said Michelle Bourassa. “I don’t want to go into details, but his last few days were extremely difficult,” she says. Andrée Simard was taken to the emergency room when she was ill, where she also had to become infected with COVID-19. After a stay in the intensive care unit, she was admitted to the medical unit, where her condition deteriorated very quickly. But on her 90th birthday, just days before this dramatic episode, she was “dancing in the living room to the Rolling Stones.”

When she was in her worst possible condition, the medical team did not prescribe the “continuous anesthetic” intended for end-of-life care, despite repeated requests from the family and the wishes of the main victims.

They never treated her palliatively, they didn’t give her the necessary doses to keep her calm and she was distressed!

Michelle Bourassa, daughter of Andrée Simard

It was only on the fourth day, after an argument with the doctor on duty after he also pointed out that his mother was Robert Bourassa’s widow, that he was granted a higher level of reassurance. When the sedation has done its job, the fact remains that “we lost valuable time fighting. She died a few hours later… peacefully.”

The CUSSS will carry out “the necessary follow-up”.

Questioned by La Presse, the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal promises to “take the necessary follow-up action to review this practice and ensure that patients who need this care [palliatifs] can receive them in the same unit they are in”. Ms Simard had COVID-19 and therefore could not be transferred to the palliative care unit to avoid exposing vulnerable patients to the virus. This unit was close to the oncology department, which is a Until now, “continuous sedation has only been offered in the palliative care unit,” according to pharmacy department guidelines, explains CIUSSS spokesperson Hélène Bergeron-Gamache. A mechanism is also planned to receive complaints from patients and families, she recalls.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE PRESS

Michelle Bourassa, Andrée Simard and François Bourassa, 1999

At the moment I am infinitely ashamed of my healthcare system and very worried about the future. My father could never have imagined that one day his wife would find himself in such a situation, he who founded health insurance for all, with the cornerstone and foundation of respect and dignity of the individual.

Michelle Bourassa, daughter of Andrée Simard

The End-of-Life Care Act also states that patients “must at all times be treated with understanding, compassion, courtesy and fairness and with respect for their dignity,” stresses Ms. Bourassa, citing the law.

Situations “Oncologists Are Rather Familiar With”

A friend of the family, Dr. Anna Towers, former director of palliative care at McGill University Health Center, went to Ms Simard’s bedside. Many of the issues raised by Ms. Bourassa should be escalated to the St. Mary’s Hospital Center Ombudsman, she said. But his drama illuminates an unacceptable situation. “It’s not just her. There is a palliative care problem across Canada. The dying, unless they have cancer, do not have access to palliative care beds with properly trained staff. Cancer or not, dying is not easy. These situations are more familiar to oncologists. The other doctors call the teams less often, they are already overwhelmed. »

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PHOTO BERNARD BRAULT, PRESS ARCHIVE

From right to left: Andrée Simard, the Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, Michelle Bourassa and François Bourassa at the official announcement of the creation of Robert Bourassa Boulevard in 2014

dr Towers readily agrees that Ms Simard should have been given a stronger dose of sedatives, but she explains: “Doctors who don’t deal with dying people on a regular basis lack knowledge. Her reflex is not to give large doses.” “The family has suffered,” she doesn’t have the appropriate support, “because on the non-palliative care floors, families aren’t cared for.” Since she is a specialist in this field, she had suggested increasing the morphine doses, to no avail. The facility is not to blame in her opinion, it has a few beds, it already has more resources than other hospitals.

dr André Levasseur, who has been close to Andrée Simard for 35 years, unreservedly regrets the treatment reserved for his friend. He also went to his bed “to the end”.

It’s not a lack of resources, what I’ve seen is a lack of empathy. I would never have accepted such behavior, I would not have wanted my mother to be treated like this.

dr André Levasseur, near Andrée Simard

“It was impossible to reach a doctor from Friday to Sunday. They were absent subscribers! ‘ regrets the former head of nuclear medicine at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital. Despite Ms Simard’s condition, she continued to be given doses of sedatives that were clearly insufficient to keep her comfortable, observes the doctor, who is now retired.

A geriatric care specialist, Dr. David Lussier agrees. “It is often difficult to gain access to palliative care outside of a cancer case. What you tell me doesn’t surprise me. These patients, who are at the end of their lives but do not have cancer, are sometimes difficult to transition into palliative care. It’s not unusual, there’s still work to be done. Sometimes it’s the other way around: it’s the family that opposes it. It is not necessary to have access to a palliative care unit to receive this care, explains Dr. lussian

“If it happened to Mr Bourassa’s wife, imagine that for the entire population! In his case, one might think that the treatment goals were not properly identified by the treatment team. The solution, he says, “lies in education. [Il faut] Make doctors aware that at the end of life you can live without cancer,” concludes Dr. Lussier, Physician at the University of Montreal’s Department of Geriatrics.