Coroner investigating after infant girl in respiratory distress dies after being turned away from Montreal hospital

The coroner’s office is investigating after an eight-month-old baby who was in respiratory distress died after she was turned away from the Montreal General Hospital.

Police had rushed the baby girl to the hospital, only for paramedics to be told to take her elsewhere. The infant died en route.

Officers were the first to arrive on the scene Wednesday morning after receiving a 911 call.

“When the police officer arrived on the scene, they noticed that the baby unfortunately wasn’t breathing, and that information was transferred to a call centre,” said Chantal Comeau, a spokesperson for Urgences-santé. “Right away, our response plan was adjusted.”

Urgences-santé says that based on information from the person who called 911, the response only merited a level three priority – a 20 to 29-minute response time.

But when police relayed the seriousness of the infant’s distress, that priority was elevated and police decided not to wait for paramedics.

“First responders were there within about two, three minutes. When they got there, the police officer had already left for the hospital with the baby,” said Comeau.

Upon arrival, they were instructed to take the baby to a pediatric facility, but the child died en route.

Patients’ rights advocate Paul Brunet questions why the Montreal General Hospital didn’t treat the baby.

“When someone is taken to a hospital in a crisis, in a situation of life or death, you should be able to treat the patient, stabilize [them] and then transfer the baby,” he said.

Brunet said police made the right decision, adding there needs to be more flexibility within the system.

“How come we cannot, sometimes, go off the protocol and treat the patient that needs urgent assistance. That’s certainly a question that needs to be raised by the coroner.”

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), Urgences-Santé and the Montreal police could not explain why a decision was made to transfer the baby.

In a statement issued late Thursday evening, a MUHC spokesperson said a medical team at the Montreal General received the baby from Montreal police and that the team “treated the patient, according to hospital standards and protocols. Following this, the decision was made to transport the patient to the MCH [Montreal Children’s Hospital].”

“Since the decision is related to the child’s medical case, no further information or details can be disclosed in order to preserve the confidentiality of the patient and out of respect for the family.”

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