A 23-year-old young woman suffering from a severe eating disorder regrets having to spend six days in Sherbrooke's psychiatric emergency department alongside psychotic, crisis or violent patients before finally being given a bed upstairs.
“There are people who arrive in an aggressive, violent state. They start screaming. The nurses and nurses are doing their best, but it's stressful. It increases your anxiety level. “You don’t necessarily feel safe,” summarizes Sabrina Gagné, who can be reached by telephone from her room at the Hôtel-Dieu in Sherbrooke.
Since the young woman has struggled with severe anorexia since she was 15, she is unfortunately used to stays in a psychiatric hospital.
Sabrina Gagné was 1.75 meters tall and weighed 35 kilograms and had reached a limit that was dangerous for her health. That's why she presented herself to the psychiatric emergency room on the morning of Monday, January 15th, she says.
This time, the psychiatrist who looks after her promised her that she would be expected in the hospital, her mother swears.
“We said to ourselves, 'At least she's being taken care of!' emphasizes Mélanie Rodrigue, who is worried about her daughter. That shocked me the most […] People need to be aware of what’s happening in the mental health system.”
Courtesy of Sabrina Gagné
However, she was admitted to hospital on a floor at 9pm on Saturday, January 20th. For six days she waited in the emergency room with several unstable patients.
“I was really at the end of my rope, there were others who had waited just as long. It was discouraging. There were some who were upset and wanted to leave, she says. The world doesn’t want to stay, so we see them tied to their bed.”
There are many stories of patients leaving a psychiatric emergency without treatment. The death of Amélie Champagne was also the subject of a public coroner's inquest.
Without her cell phone she had nothing to do. A common room has a few tables and chairs, but patients must sleep on “backed” stretchers or small makeshift beds.
Sleep while you wait
“There are people who sleep most of the day. There’s nothing to do, you wait… You don’t even know what you’re waiting for,” she says.
Sabrina Gagné even says that of those six days, she was transferred to the physical emergency room on a stretcher for two days because there were too many patients, before returning to the psychiatric emergency room.
Despite everything, she doesn't blame the employees.
“The staff are doing their best but it’s ridiculous, it’s not a climate we want to be in. “It makes me want to race at home again.”
This week, Sabrina Gagné did not really start treatment and was examined by the different doctors who took turns in the emergency room.
“Every day I asked, 'Is there a place coming soon?' “They’re overwhelmed, they don’t know…” she whispers.
Placed in a room for a week, the young patient begins to get along and feels better. She has no idea how long she will stay in the hospital, but expects she will be there for several weeks.
Courtesy of Sabrina Gagné
Finally have a dream
For the future, Sabrina Gagné hopes to be able to successfully overcome her eating disorder and think about a possible career.
“I just wish I could get better so I could have a dream. “It's so vague right now that it's hard to find hope,” said the woman, who works in the hotel industry.
According to Department of Health and Human Services standards, the average wait time on an emergency room stretcher should not exceed 24 hours. However, several hospitals do not achieve the goal and in psychiatric care it often takes longer.
The Estrie Integrated Health and Social Services Center (CISSS) responded that the emergency department was overloaded and that the prioritization of beds was being reassessed based on the condition of the patients. Since 2020, length of stay has increased as patients' clinical profiles are more complex.
Do you want to report a health network situation?
Write to me