Heart patient died after nine months on waiting list in León

Luis Canabal had been wrongly classified as a lower priority case

Laura Canabal with a photograph of her brother, Luis.
Laura Canabal with a photograph of her brother, Luis.Carlos Rosillo (EL PAÍS)

A 48-year-old man died of an aortic aneurysm in Castilla y León after spending nine months on the waiting list and having an operation planned for January postponed.

Luis Canabal was diagnosed with indigestion when he went to see his family doctor on February 21 after feeling unwell. Eight hours later he was admitted to the emergency room in Bierzo, Castilla y León, where he spent four hours without being seen. When his critical state was finally noted, an ambulance was called to transfer Canabal to León, where he could have the surgery he needed. "It took an hour to arrive," said his sister, Laura, who has launched legal action against the regional government. "He'd only just got in when he died."

Canabal's planned operation had been pushed back due to more serious cases among patients already in the coronary unit, a regional government spokesman told EL PAÍS. But Canabal had been wrongly classified as a lower priority three case.

Gonzalo Barón Esquivas, of the Spanish Society of Cardiology, said that if Canabal's aorta had a maximum dilation of 58 millimeters, as indicated in his medical records, he should have been a top priority case. The patient's hemodynamics report from the León hospital reported a lower maximum dilation of 46 millimeters. Esquivas said a dilated aorta requires immediate surgery if "larger than 55 millimeters in diameter."

The regional government website states that priority three cases are "not urgent" and indicates patients in this category "whose pathology permits can have treatment delayed."

Cutbacks in healthcare have obliged Spain's regions to abandon plans to shorten waiting lists.

"My brother died drowning in his own blood after waiting nine months for an operation," said Laura. "If there was such a long list, was there no other hospital in Spain where he could have had the operation?"

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