On call 24/7 | “We are not taking care of it enough”, according to Dr Éric Gagnon

On call 24/7 |  “We are not taking care of it enough”, according to Dr Éric Gagnon

“Yes, there is a small part of cynicism in me,” admits Éric Gagnon, commenting on the somewhat gruff image he gives off on screen. “But most of who I am is more on the side of dreaming and loving people. “Rare interview with the enigmatic emergency physician who, Thursday evening, appears for the penultimate time in an episode of On call 24/7.

Posted at 6:00 a.m.

Dominic Late

Dominic Late
The Press

Éric Gagnon greets me in the hall of the building where he lives, near Jarry Park, with the same nonchalance with which he moves through the halls of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital, as if he were walking in slow motion. in the middle of a tornado. One of many distinctive traits that made him quickly become one of the most fascinating doctors in On call 24/7.

It’s because, unlike his (sympathetic) colleague François Marquis, who probably enjoys every minute he spends in front of the cameras, the 60-year-old emergency physician is a much more restive worker, whose every precious reflection seems almost had to be torn from him. Éric Gagnon is a perfect television character, because it’s easy to imagine, behind his eyes, both sad and laughing, all the richness of an inner world on which many storms are blowing.

“When the hospital comm people called me to tell me that someone was needed from the emergency [pour participer à De garde 24/7]I answered them: “Look again, it will surely not be me”, he says in his unique, deep and drawling voice.

After an hour-long meeting with the senior management of Maisonneuve-Rosemont, who pleaded for the exceptional showcase that the Télé-Québec program represented for their sometimes unloved establishment, the doctor agreed to lend himself to the game. And even if he spontaneously hated himself on screen, the social utility of such a documentary quickly became obvious to him.

“I understood that it can allow people to see that the majority of doctors are benevolent humans,” he says. People confronted with this gigantic boat that is the health system present themselves in their greatest vulnerability, meet doctors who are unknown to them, who are not always completely attentive, because everything is going too fast, but I think the show shows that we have a real sensitivity for patients. We really care, despite all the difficulties that it represents to treat people. »

Scary decisions

The son of an ophthalmologist who spent his youth in Outremont, Éric Gagnon enrolled in medicine on a whim, to follow in the footsteps of many of his comrades from Collège Stanislas. He searched a lot, to the point of taking a year off after his first and fourth year of studies, until he encountered emergency medicine. “The 8 to 5, the offices, the internal medicine, it really didn’t come to me. »

The emergency physician, this rebel of the hospital environment? This is indeed a cliché, but a cliché to which all the same corresponds quite a bit to someone who “doesn’t have many fixed ideas about what a person should be” and whose indignation is as numerous as the sighs he lets fall into On call 24/7.

I have a lot against injustice. We think we live in an egalitarian society, but there are people who work hard and who have fuck all protection. The little workers, if they fall seriously ill, they have no insurance, they have nothing in front of them.

The Dr Eric Gagnon

Today he has 30 years of emergencies in the body, but clearly still the same concern, screwed to the heart, to do well. What do the general public understand the least about their job? ” Pressure. The number of agonizing decisions we make in a day. When I sew up a hand, the decision I make to put that end there, and the other there, comes with a huge emotional charge. If I’m wrong, the patient won’t die, but it can kid him for the rest of his life. That’s what’s exhausting. »

comfort and love

Our collective relationship to death – the faithful of On call 24/7 know it – is at the top of the list of subjects that inhabit Éric Gagnon. “I have a dilemma in my job between what I believe in and what I do. This is what is particularly difficult to live with, ”he confides. That’s to say ? “We are far too much in care and not enough in comfort and love. We are not caring enough. »

If the end of life has so often been at the heart of his screen appearances, it is because he is sorry for our collective denial of death. Bring out the technomedical arsenal for an elderly person who is heading for his last breath, while daily life in a CHSLD struggles to conform to our ideal of the softest and most luminous twilight possible? Funny choices of society, he summarizes.

We have totally unlearned how to die. We are in a logic of life at all costs. It’s a fight that we constantly fight urgently: people arrive, they’re old, and the end of life has not been considered. There are plenty of people I care for because that’s what they want, but if it was just me, I would just make them feel better, make them comfortable.

The Dr Eric Gagnon

“I can’t believe, he continues, that from the age of 75, you have to take exams to keep your driving license, but that there is not a place in our society where you have to talk about the levels of care we want. It should be an obligation, like paying taxes. »

Death, we inevitably become desensitized to it, by dint of rubbing shoulders with it. But each of the great departures, for Éric Gagnon, remains sacred. “At each death certificate, I always say goodbye to the dead. I always wish him good luck. I always pass my thumb over his forehead. »

On call 24/7Thursday at 8 p.m., on Télé-Québec

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