Dr. Rajindar Joneja

JANICE Joneja fired off an angry letter last Saturday to the Health Minister and the administration and medical staff of Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops after her husband, prominent retired neurosurgeon and psychiatrist Dr. Rajindar Joneja died in the waiting room of the emergency department on March 12.

She wrote: “I brought my husband, Dr. Rajindar Joneja, to the emergency room of RIH in acute distress. He was experiencing severe chest pains and exhibiting clear signs of a heart attack. He was seen by the triage nurse, to whom he related a clear and concise medical history regarding his current symptoms. He was given two aspirin tablets (without water) and we were told to wait in the waiting room, from where he would shortly be seen by a physician.

“Within five minutes he experienced cardiac arrest. I alerted a passing staff member, and held my husband in my arms as he drew his last breath. A Code Blue was called but far too late. He was not resuscitated. This scene has been replaying in my mind constantly since then, and I know will do so for a very long time to come. No-one, regardless of their position, should pass from this life in such traumatic, public, and obviously avoidable circumstances.”

She went out to point out: “Dr. Joneja has faithfully served RIH and Kamloops as a highly regarded Neurologist and Psychiatrist since 1968. He dedicated his entire life to the service of the community without sparing himself when needed by his patients. That he should be consigned to a public waiting room to await the convenience of the medical staff in the hour of his greatest need is unconscionable.”

Joneja added: “The triage nurse in particular should have been aware of his condition and should have taken immediate steps for Dr. Joneja to be transferred to a bed or even the trauma room.”

She said that the standard procedures in place at RIH for such an emergency need to be vastly improved.

Joneja wrote: “We frequently see articles in the popular press about how to deal with medical emergencies. We are urged to recognise the signs of a heart attack and instructed to proceed immediately to the ER of the nearest hospital. To what end? To be given two aspirin tables and told to wait for medical attention until the staff is free to deal with the patient? Is that a measure of the care we can expect from our famed Canadian medical system?

“I urge you all, on behalf of my husband, myself, our family and the whole community to take steps to ensure that this does not happen ever again.”