HEALTH-CARE HEARTACHE FOR FAMILY
Health-care system slammed over First Nations woman’s treatment
A Garden Hill First Nation family is alleging a loved one has been stonewalled by the Manitoba health care system after her health deteriorated so greatly after emergency surgery last year that they now believe her condition is terminal.
The family of 38-year-old Melodie Harper is alleging a December 2016 surgery at St. Boniface Hospital on her gall bladder led to multiple complications and three more surgeries, each of which caused further problems and now have her family believing she will never recover.
“I believe that these mistakes could have been avoided if our health care was better,” a stoic, tearful Harper said at a press conference Monday at the Manitoba Legislature, adding she’s lived in constant pain for the past year.
Harper said she was never given a six-week follow-up by the original surgeon and got no response to multiple calls to his office in the ensuing weeks. In February, Harper said a nurse found one of the original incisions was “turning red” and “getting infected.”
“That’s when they started saying my incision turned chronic when it could have been prevented if the surgeon took the time for me to give me a return appointment,” she said.
Vernon Harper, Melodie’s husband, said the family has been unable to get answers from any health-care officials as to what has to happen for her to ever go home again.
“These are the answers we’re looking for,” Vernon Harper said. “We’re already talking about putting a little Christmas tree beside the hospital bed. We don’t know.
“They were getting ready to send her home as a palliative care patient. A palliative care patient is when they send people home to die.”
David Mcdougall, Chief of St. Theresa Point and Melodie Harper’s uncle, said the family has been “turned away” by the medical community, while being provided little to no information on what should happen next.
“We respect the work that’s being done by the health-care professionals in the province and sometimes they make mistakes,” Mcdougall said. “However, subsequent events and actions that happened and the lack of further intervention My god, we’re in the 21st century. How can they not be able to fix some mistakes that happened?”
“I made the statement: ‘Oh my god, they’re waiting for her to die so this will go away.’ And we can’t let that happen.”
Melodie Harper remains in Grace Hospital, where she has been since June, but officials there say staff has been “closely involved” with the family.
“Over the course of Ms. Harper’s admission to Grace Hospital our staff were closely involved with her and her family to provide support and assistance,” Grace Hospital COO Kellie O’rourke said in a statement. “Many meetings took place with care providers. Last week, regional client relations and clinical staff arranged another meeting with Ms. Harper and family, scheduled for this week, including representation from the medicine program, the emergency medicine program, Indigenous Health and other Grace Hospital staff.”
Judy Klassen, the Liberal MLA for Kewatinook, said the family wants an apology, and said Harper’s story is one that is all too common in First Nations communities.
“Unfortunately this story can be told time and again,” Klassen said. “You could tell that story all over northern communities where nursing stations exist. It’s tragic our nursing stations are referred to as Tylenol Clinics, because that’s the best that they can do.”
Vernon Harper is overcome with emotion during a press conference yesterday at the Manitoba Legislative Building. Harper claims his wife, Melodie, right, was stonewalled by the provincial health-care system after surgery in 2016.