09/30/2014 02:10 EDT | Updated 11/30/2014 05:59 EST

91-year-old waits several hours for ambulance

It was a frightening weekend for Garry Lynch and his family when his 91-year-old mother, Catherine Lynch, was forced to wait more than three hours for a Montreal ambulance, after having fallen and been stuck in a bathtub for 13 hours.

“It was just a terrible situation,” Garry Lynch told Mike Finnerty on CBC’s Daybreak Montreal. “At that age there should be some compassion, showing some exception to the rules to send somebody quicker.”

Very early Sunday morning Catherine Lynch — who lives on her own — went to her bathroom, fell and landed in her bath tub.

It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that she was found by a neighbour who came to check on her.

The neighbour immediately called 911 but was told they would have to wait about three hours for an ambulance to arrive.

Lynch said his mother was conscious, but very weak and could barely talk.

The phone triage operator advised the family not to move the 91-year-old, and not to give her any food, liquids or medication.

Lynch said he was asked whether his mother was bleeding, unconscious or injured.

“There was no blood showing and no broken bones that I could tell. But how does anyone know — how does Urgences-Santé know — there is no internal bleeding?” he said.

“[The operator] said… even if they are en route and there is an emergency, they will just redirect [the ambulance] because my mom’s case was considered a non-emergency.”

Urgences-Santé told CBC they treat emergency calls with “the utmost diligence,” but with over 1,000 calls a day, they classify calls by their importance, suggesting Catherine Lynch's case was lower down on a list of priorities.

“Even though it’s very bad when they’re 92 years old and everything, when the person is not in a life-threatening situation sometimes the triage will put the call at the back of more important calls,” said Montreal ambulance technician union representative, Yvon Bonesso.

About three hours and 25 minutes after the first call to 911, Catherine Lynch was taken to the hospital.  

Lynch said his mother is recovering in the hospital, but her legs are very weak, she has circulation problems after lying in the bathtub for 13 hours.  

They don’t want to release her until they are sure when she gets home she will not fall again.

“My mom is a super-tough woman. She’s stubborn and she’s really, really a solid person,” said Lynch. “She’ll get through this. She’s been through a lot more.”

Garry Lynch said that in retrospect, he would have exaggerated his mother’s injuries if it meant he might get a faster response.

“I would have said ‘she’s bleeding like Hell,’” he said.

Urgences-Santé said it has opened an investigation into the incident.