The head of the emergency unit at a French hospital has admitted the death of a 91-year-old man who waited three days for a specialist bed was “inhuman”.
When the patient was admitted, his life had not been considered to be in danger.
But he died on April 12 after spending three days in the emergencies unit waiting for a specialist bed in the geriatric department.
"The fact of being alone and lying down for so long certainly deteriorated his health until his death," Sara Fernandez, secretary general of the CGT union at Grenoble CHU hospital, told Le Figaro, deploring an overloaded service.
“In such a context, specialised care cannot be achieved. So, indeed, waiting several days on a stretcher can speed up the process [of death].
The nonagenarian’s family was unable to see him before he died because visits to the emergency unit have not been allowed since Covid.
Marc Blancher, head of the emergency unit at Grenoble CHU hospital, told France Bleu Isère: “It’s inhuman, we are in a catastrophic situation every day.”
“When someone dies in hospital [normally], it is usually done in a caring way, with the family around them. But when someone dies unexpectedly, in a corridor, in a cubicle, when the family is not there, it is a tragedy not only for the person but also for our [care] team.”
The man’s death is the third similar case for Grenoble CHU in the past five months.
In December 2022, a 47-year-old woman was found dead in the toilets in the emergency department, after waiting for a bed in the psychiatric department for three days. Just weeks later, another person died in the department while waiting for a bed in the relevant ward.
After the 91-year-old’s death, unions in Grenoble made a formal complaint to the prosecutor for the charge of “endangering the health of another”.
Unions have again denounced hospitals’ lack of resources and staff. Since last summer, unions at CHUs nationwide have been taking part in rolling strikes and demonstrations, and writing letters to their local prefects to protest the situation. They claim that they have had no response.
Ms Fernandez added: “We are lacking 120 nurses and around 40 care staff.”
She said nurses and carers at the hospital “are ashamed and scared because they cannot offer even what they would consider the minimum service to patients”.
The union added that “the closure of the [nearby] Voiron emergency room, and the Clinique Mutualiste at night, have also added to a deterioration in the way that patients are treated”.
The criticisms from union leaders in Grenoble come after months of ongoing action from hospital workers, and complaints about worker shortages.
And in June last year, the Samu-Urgences de France union said 127 out of 620 A&E units were struggling due to critical staff shortages.