Overwhelmed healthcare system: Waiting for urgent stomach surgery

A Lévis man who can barely sleep at night impatiently awaits urgent surgery that could ease his pain, but stumbles upon an overcrowded healthcare system.

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Étienne Germain-Pouliot suffers from a 12 cm hiatal hernia that requires surgery.

“A gastroenterologist told me it’s probably congenital. But over time my stomach started to move and it got worse and worse,” said the 35-year-old.

The first symptoms appeared when he was old enough to drink alcohol. He vomited systematically when drinking beer.


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“I started taking stomach lift pills around the age of 23 or 24. We said it’s over. Now the drugs work during the day, but lose their effect in the evening. I have tummy tucks that often prevent me from sleeping,” says the video game tester, who has stopped working due to health issues.

“Twenty or 30 years ago, there were more surgeries like this because there were no drugs for reflux,” he continues. I’m on my full meds and it’s not doing the job.”

Orphan of the doctor

The Lévisien estimates that he has been waiting for a family doctor for 10 years. Out of desperation, he turned to the private sector.

“I needed a doctor and was tired of always going to the emergency room. This went on until a doctor asked for tests,” he says.

Before she thought about surgery, a specialist doctor advised her on a new drug, which did not solve the problem.

“With COVID it took about six months to see him (the specialist) succeed again. This is where they finally decided to operate on me,” he adds.


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Mr Germain-Pouliot received a medical certificate stating that he needed an operation within 30 days. It’s almost three months.

“I have a really crappy quality of life. I can only eat limp because I can’t digest anything anymore, I’m in the water. I have to wait but they don’t tell me how long it will be. Does the stomach have to be completely in the chest to be considered urgent? If I don’t have surgery, one fine day I won’t be able to swallow anything that far away,” he fears.

Big operation

The surgery he has to undergo is not benign. In particular, it requires two days in the intensive care unit.

“It seems that they cannot have me (at the Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis) in intensive care for two days. They also tell me that they only have one surgeon who also treats lung cancer,” says Mr Germain-Pouliot.

“The only way would be to go to another country and the only place I would trust would be the United States, but that costs too much,” he regrets.

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