Posted on November 11, 2011
This entry was posted in Patient Care.
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WINNIPEG — Drianna Ross lived only two months, but her legacy promises to be intense scrutiny of health care on Manitoba First Nations.
The infant was crying, coughing and breathing only with difficulty last Thursday. Her young parents, Erna Hastings and Paul Ross, rushed her to the local nursing station in God’s Lake Narrows, a First Nation some 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
They took her to the station three times and never saw a doctor. Every time, nurses sent them home with Tylenol for the baby.
On Friday at 7 p.m., with the baby still alarmingly sick, the nurses called a medevac to fly her to hospital in the northern Manitoba town of Thompson.
She died on Saturday of pneumonia.
Manitoba First Nations leaders called Tuesday for a public inquiry, as well as an inquest, noting it’s not the first such death. Two years ago, leaders called for a major review after a six-month-old boy, Chace Barkman, died of meningitis after initial symptoms were not immediately recognized. Nothing concrete resulted from the calls.
Drianna was a happy baby who laughed a lot — she captured her father’s heart and her mother called her a “Daddy’s girl,” Ross said Tuesday at an emotionally charged news conference.
“The nurses kept telling us, it was going to be all right,” the father said. “They kept telling us to give her Tylenol. We kept on saying to the nurses at the station, ‘We know when our daughter is sick.’ ”
By the time the medevac arrived at the Thompson General, the baby was failing rapidly. Drianna stopped breathing in the elevator at the hospital and had to be revived.
Ross held his daughter when she drew her last breath. “She died in my arms. She died in my arms,” he said, breaking down in audible sobs. He and the baby’s mother were led weeping from the room.
Both levels of government responded quickly Tuesday.
Manitoba Health has asked the federal government for information about the federally run nursing station, and also for a review of the care provided to the child at the Thompson hospital.
First Nations leaders also called for a health care accord with Ottawa, the provinces and First Nations, where control of health care services would devolve to First Nations.
“Why is it that the federal government, the provinces and the territories can come together and plan a health care accord and not include the First Nations? Why can’t this responsibility be extended to the indigenous people in this province?” said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, leader of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
Steve Outhouse, director of communications for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, would not specifically commit the government to handing control of health services to First Nations in Manitoba. However he did point to a recent agreement signed with the B.C. First Nations Health Council which began the transfer of the planning, design, management and delivery of First Nations health programs to a First Nations health authority in B.C. The deal is the first of its kind in Canada.
Most remote reserves in Manitoba are served by nursing stations that are only open during business hours and suffer chronically high staff turnover. Doctors fly into the community sporadically and are otherwise only available by phone.
— with files from Mia Rabson
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