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After serious collision in Italy, woman stuck on surgery wait list in Montreal

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A family vacation in the Italian countryside quickly turned into a nightmare for Maggie Dunphy after she crashed her rented Vespa in the middle of the road and shattered several bones.

The Montreal resident says her nightmare was made worse, however, by Quebec’s health-care system after returning home to get proper treatment.

In total, she suffered a “severely” broken left shoulder, three broken ribs, a broken ankle and three broken toes. Doctors told her she needs metal plates to fix her shattered shoulder.

She expected to get surgery right away after booking a last-minute flight home and rushing to the Montreal General Hospital on July 23. Instead, she was sent home with a cast on her shoulder, given a limited amount of pain medication, and placed on a waiting list with no clear date yet for surgery.

“If I had known then what I know now, I would have gotten that done in Italy,” she said.

Maggie Dunphy is recovering at home while waiting for surgery at the Montreal General Hospital. (Submitted photo)

The doctors who saw her at the Montreal General were sympathetic to her condition, she said, and told her they wanted to operate on her immediately, but that there was a resource issue at the hospital. 

“He said, ‘I want to help you, Mrs. Dunphy, but I can’t because they won’t give me the [operating rooms] to do it,'” she said.

Hospital staff also instructed her to visit the hospital’s ombudsman’s office, which she did on Wednesday, but has not yet heard back.

Maggie Dunphy’s Vespa after the crash in San Gimignano, Italy on July 22, 2023. (Submitted)

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), which oversees the Montreal General Hospital, said in a statement to CTV News that the summer season brings an increased number of trauma cases and that hospital is not opening all of its operating rooms “due to staffing issues.”

“It is always regrettable when surgical procedures have to be postponed, and we understand how frustrating this can be for patients waiting for surgery. We sincerely apologize for this situation,” wrote Gilda Salomone, an MUHC spokesperson.

“However, like emergency cases, trauma surgery cases are not treated in order of arrival, but rather are prioritized according to their degree of urgency and the need for surgery to prevent certain outcomes. In some cases, for example when there is a risk of paralysis, we must proceed immediately and defer another case. Unfortunately, less urgent surgical procedures have to be postponed.

We regularly reassess all patients awaiting surgery to ensure that the acuity level of their case has not changed, and work assiduously to operate on all patients as quickly as possible.”

An X-Ray showing Maggie Dunphy’s broken elbow. (Submitted photo)

The statement is little comfort to Dunphy, who is worried about what long-term damage is being done to her bones as each day goes by.

“I would say the most painful part is the anxiety. Trying not to cry from the pain at nighttime when I’m sleeping. Feeling alone. Feeling helpless having nobody here to help me, except for my friends and my family. If I didn’t have them, I don’t know what I would have done, honestly,” Dunphy said from her home.


At a follow-up appointment at the hospital on Thursday, she said the doctor who saw her said there could be irrevocable damage to her shoulder if she doesn’t get surgery by the 21-day mark, which is next week. She said a tentative date for surgery could be next Wednesday, but it’s not yet confirmed.

Her daughter, Sarah Spagnuolo, was riding in the scooter in front her just before the crash happened on July 22. She said she’s doing the best she can to take care of her mother by icing her wounds, giving her medication, and helping her around the house.

“It’s just so hard to see someone you love the most in this world in so much pain. You wish you could do something seeing her in this pain,” she said. 

“It’s frustrating when you don’t know how it’s going to heal. You don’t have answers, you don’t have more prescriptions if the drugs run out. You don’t know what to do.”

With files from CTV News Montreal’s Stéphane Giroux


Maggie Dunphy suffered several broken bones during a trip to Italy in July 2023 and is now on a waitlist to get surgery back home in Montreal. (Stephane Giroux/CTV News)

Maggie Dunphy suffered several broken bones during a trip to Italy in July 2023 and is now on a waitlist to get surgery back home in Montreal. (Stephane Giroux/CTV News)