HEALTH-CARE HEARTACHE FOR FAM­ILY

Health-care sys­tem slammed over First Na­tions woman’s treat­ment

Winnipeg Sun - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID LARKINS dlarkins@postmedia.com Twit­ter: @Larkin­swsun

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.”

KEVIN KING/WINNIPEG SUN PHO­TOS

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.

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