First Nations councillor questions nursing station care after 4-hour drive for wife’s medical treatment

WINNIPEG — Indigenous leaders are calling on governments to put a stop to racism in the health-care system.

The renewed call comes amid concerns raised by a councillor from a northern Manitoba First Nation.

Brian Wood, of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation in South Indian Lake, said he drove his wife Carol more than four hours for medical care.

Wood said his wife didn’t receive adequate care at a federal nursing station in his community during an initial assessment after suffering what turned out to be a broken leg.

“I knew there was something seriously wrong with my wife because she was just wailing in pain,” Wood said a news conference on Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, the couple travelled in a pickup truck from South Indian Lake to Thompson on a bumpy road.

It’s a trip Wood thinks should’ve happened immediately by medevac, but one he said the couple was told could wait after a nurse examined Carol’s leg.

“She said, ‘no you can take her home and go make her feel comfortable,’” Wood said, adding the couple was told Carol would be sent to Thompson on a scheduled flight in two days.

Wood didn’t think his wife should go on a normal flight due to her injury. With her leg swelling up and the pain getting worse, he decided to drive her. Once in Thompson, Wood said X-rays revealed two fractures. He said his wife was then taken by air ambulance from Thompson to Winnipeg for surgery.

What Wood and his wife experienced shocked Dr. Barry Lavallee, a medical advisor for northern Manitoba First Nations.

“It is substandard care. It is accepted substandard care,” said Lavallee, CEO of Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc.

Wood shared the story during a news conference held by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. It was held ahead of a meeting Wednesday and Thursday between Indigenous leaders and federal, provincial and territorial governments. MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said governments need to put a stop to anti-Indigenous racism in health care.

“We have brought these issues forward time and time again,” Settee said.

“This is something that has gone on long enough. We are not going to tolerate systems that perpetuate racism.”

Settee said Indigenous people may have doubts about seeking care because they’re sometimes not treated with compassion and dignity.

Wood said his wife should’ve received a more thorough assessment.

“This has to change,” Wood said. “We can’t continue to treat our First Nations people the way they’ve been treated.”

He said his wife is recovering from surgery in hospital in Thompson.

South Indian Lake has a federal nursing station.

Indigenous Services Canada said it’s looking into questions from CTV News about Wood’s concerns. 

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