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A 'horrible ending': N.S. man who laid hours in his driveway waiting for ambulance dies in hospital weeks later


An 86-year-old man who laid in his driveway for hours while waiting for an ambulance earlier this summer, has died after never leaving hospital.

Ross O'Brien had fallen in his Dartmouth driveway in August.

Fearing he may have broken his hip, his wife called for an ambulance, but after several hours, that ambulance still hadn't arrived.

Janet O'Brien then learned the ambulance was coming from Parrsboro, N.S., more than 170 kilometres away. 

After a relative who is a nurse determined it was safe to move him, O'Brien called police, who took her husband to the nearby hospital.

The family says it was a difficult day when O'Brien broke his hip, and even more upsetting due to how long he lay in the driveway.

"The outpour of support from Nova Scotia and all of Atlantic Canada meant so much to our family and we felt as though it could be a catalyst for change," reads a statement issued by the family. 

"Ross made the best of a horrible situation, being positive as he always was, and felt as something of a celebrity as all the nurses knew him."

The incident brought attention to long wait times being experienced by Nova Scotians due to a lack of ambulance coverage. 

In a conversation with CTV Atlantic, O'Brien's daughter says despite having a successful hip surgery shortly after the incident, her father never left the hospital after experiencing a series of complications, calling it a "horrible ending."

The family says O'Brien moved from Dartmouth General Hospital to Camp Hill then finally to Abbie Lane, both at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. He was progressing on his physical therapy and remission.

"We are heartbroken to share Ross never made it back home after the fall," the statement continues. 

He died Sept. 26 in the hospital.

"While we had many kind nurses and support along the way, our family continued to be disappointed with his care," reads the statement.

"Our family is heartbroken at the sudden passing of our witty, kind, loving Papa. We hope the devastating ending to our story can be heard and change really can and will be made."

Today, the province's premier expressed his sympathy to the family, and reiterated his commitment to improve the system.

"We're all heartbroken for it," says Tim Houston, "(O'Brien's experience) shook all Nova Scotians.

"We understand the challenges in the healthcare system that were underscored by this," adds Houston, and we'll do everything we can to try and impact that going forward."

The incident came at a time when the union representing the province's paramedics was sounding the alarm over ambulance delays and shortages with its #CodeCritical social media awareness campaign.

The head of IUOE 727, Michael Nickerson, says the problems haven't gone away. Nickerson says paramedics are exhausted, and there are about 200 workers who are on leave due to physical or psychological injury.

Nickerson says patient offloading delays at hospitals also remain an issue.

But he is cautiously optimistic that improvements could come, after Houston and Health Minister Michelle Thompson recently toured the province to speak to frontline health-care workers.

"Any time you're dealing with government, we've been let down before in the past," says Nickerson.

"But we have seen, there have been some positives that we have seen with the Houston government," he adds.

The family hasn't directly connected O'Brien's passing with his ambulance wait.

But the director of provincial operations for EHS, Charbel Daniel, shared a statement of condolence when asked for comment by CTV News.

"Our thoughts are with the O'Brien family and his friends at this difficult time," writes Daniel.

"While we can't speak on this particular incident specifically, there are many factors that can impact EHS response times, including a high volume of call demand, multiple incoming calls in an area, and delays in offloading patients. We continue ... to address those factors and look for solutions."

In his obituary, O'Brien, a former Canada Post employee, is described as having "immense love for his wife, children and grandchildren, never missing an opportunity to spend time with the ones he loved."

His funeral service is Thursday. Donations in O'Brien's memory maybe be made to Bide Awhile Animal Shelter or Feed Nova Scotia food banks. Top Stories

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