Wakefield, Quebec hospital threatens legal action to curb grieving father

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by Trevor Greenway on May 20, 2010

The placard outside Jean-Paul Brisebois’s gas station reads: I, Jean-Paul Brisebois, request the medical fi le of my daughter Valerie from the Wakefi eld hospital. They refuse to release it to me. Why are they hiding it? Is there something  in the fi le? It doesn’t look good. I have the right to have it, it’s the law. They are asleep (on the job). I’m asking  the public to not give donations to the hospital.

* To read the translation of this message, scroll to the bottom of the article

Jean-Paul Brisebois is leading a campaign against the Wakefield Memorial Hospital to retrieve his daughter Valerie’s hospital records. That campaign has been met with a letter from the hospital’s lawyer, warning Brisebois to watch what he says.

The letter issued by the Gatineau law firm Bastien, Moreau, Lepage firm threatens Brisebois with legal action if he continues spreading a “bad reputation” about the hospital.

“It’s okay that he protests,” said Wakefield Memorial Hospital Director Andre Desilets, who confirmed the letter’s sending.

Desilets said the letter has nothing to do with a public protest, but has everything to do with accuracy of the case, ”if he goes against the CSSS (des Collines regional health board) and says something wrong or something not accurate.” It specifically references “bias” in an article that recently appeared in another regional weekly newspaper.

May 19 front page

May 19 front page

As for his daughter’s records, the hospital has refused Brisebois access to the documents, citing the need to know the reason he wants them.

“I have been waiting 58 days for it now,” said Brisebois from his Francis Fuels gas station in Masham on May 14. “This is unbelievable.”

Desilets said the hospital is just following Quebec access to information laws.

FATHER’S PROTEST

Beside the pumps of his gas station, Brisebois has set up a placard with Valerie’s picture affixed to it, along with a hand-written message criticizing the hospital for not releasing the documents. The placard questions why the hospital is “hiding” the records and urges residents to refrain from donating to the institution.

Valerie died on March 3 of pneumonia.

It all began in late January when Valerie, 33, who suffered from Down syndrome, complained of stomach pain. Brisebois figured she was stressed out and lonely since her mother died of a blood clot weeks before.

Jean-Paul Brisebois shows the Low Down the strange paper the Wakefield hospital is asking him to sign

Jean-Paul Brisebois shows the Low Down the strange paper the Wakefield hospital is asking him to sign

The abdominal pains persisted, prompting Brisebois to take his daughter to the Wakefield hospital to get checked out. At the hospital, Brisebois was told that Valerie had a stomach virus and she was sent home with some pills. But the pain continued. Brisebois then took Valerie back into Wakefield a half-dozen times before they finally sent her to Hull for X-rays.

As Brisebois waited for the X-ray results, Valerie’s condition continued to get worse. He took her to the Pontiac Hospital Centre in Shawville, where Brisebois was informed of the seriousness of his daughter’s condition. After taking X-rays, the doctors in Shawville diagnosed Valerie with a hernia and said she needed immediate surgery. Hospital records obtained by the Low Down confirm this diagnosis.

“They found out she had a hernia,” said Brisebois, who is the Ward 4 councillor in La Peche. “And a real big one, too.”

Valerie underwent an operation in Shawville on Feb. 2, and it was a success, said Brisebois. Within a week, Valerie was back at home, playing outside and watching the Montreal Canadiens on TV.

“She was crazy about hockey,” said Brisebois.

Twenty-eight days after Valerie’s X-ray in Hull, according to Brisebois, he got a call from the technician who said that Valerie had a hernia and needed an operation. Brisebois informed the Hull hospital that Valerie had had an operation and was doing just fine.

She was, but about a month after the operation Valerie was having trouble breathing at home, so Brisebois took her back to the Wakefield hospital where she collapsed. A nurse helped Valerie onto a stretcher, but she was sent home within hours. Brisebois told the doctor that Valerie had just recently had an operation and he wanted her to stay at the hospital overnight, but Valerie was sent home with what doctors called a cold.

When Brisebois got Valerie home, she collapsed again on the kitchen floor. Brisebois picked her up, placed her in his truck and immediately headed for Shawville.

“I had to stop four or five times to give her water so she could breathe,” he said, recalling the stormy night driving to Shawville. On reaching the hospital, Valerie was nearly comatose.

“When I got to the hospital, her eyes were turning upside down,” said Brisebois, holding back a flood of tears. “She could hardly move.”

Valerie had an immediate blood test and an X-ray, which showed that her lungs were not functioning properly. Doctors diagnosed pneumonia. Hospital records again confirm this diagnosis. Valerie was eventually induced into a 48-hour coma, so she could regain some energy, but it never happened. Valerie was at the Pontiac Hospital Centre for nine days until her liver failed. She died on March 3.

With almost no time to mourn his late wife Denise, Valerie’s mother, Brisebois was faced with having lost two family members within months of each other.

“When I would go home, (Valerie) would be waiting for me,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears. “Now, I go home and I got nothing.”

Brisebois just wanted to retrieve his daughter’s hospital records and begin his grieving process. Obtaining the records from Shawville was not a problem, but the Wakefield records have yet to be handed him.

According to Brisebois, he signed all the same hospital papers at Wakefield as he did at Shawville to get his daughter’s records, but the Wakefield facility sent him another “strange paper” asking why he wanted the records.

“It’s none of their business,” he said. “I can have them if I want them.”

Not according to Desilets, who said that under Quebec law, hospital records cannot be given to someone other than the actual patient. He said if Brisebois were looking for his own records, there would be no problem. But because he is looking for someone else’s records, it becomes more of a process.

“No one has the right to see other people’s documents,” Desilets said.

He said the hospital has to know the reason documents are sought. If it’s because of a hereditary illness or something of that nature, the documents would most likely be made available.

“We have to know the reason,” said Desilets. “And then we would decide.”

As for the “strange paper” that includes no bar code or docket number, Desilets said, “it is an official document.”

Although it doesn’t have a bar code or docket number, it does include the health region name and address.

Desilets said Brisebois is free to come back in and reapply for the documents, but he would need to follow protocol. Brisebois is refusing to sign the “strange paper,” because he feels he already signed enough documents and he has his suspicions that Valerie’s papers could be altered if he complies.

* The placard outside Jean-Paul Brisebois’s gas station reads: “I, Jean-Paul Brisebois, request the medical fi le of my daughter Valerie from the Wakefi eld hospital. They refuse to release it to me. Why are they hiding it? Is there something in the fi le? It doesn’t look good. I have the right to have it, it’s the law. They are asleep (on the job). I’m asking the public to not give donations to the hospital.”