A Kitimat woman and her partner, who delivered a stillborn after being turned away at the local hospital and forced to drive to Terrace, nearly an hour away, have filed a lawsuit against Northern Health, Kitimat General Hospital and several doctors and nurses.
Earlier this month, the couple came forward to Black Press Media with their allegations, prompting an internal investigation by the Northern Health Authority.
According to court documents filed in BC Supreme Court on Feb. 10, Sarah Morrison, who is Indigenous, and Ronald Luft are accusing racial profiling and negligence by staff at Kitimat General Hospital and Mills Memorial Hospital.
None of these accusations have been tested in court. The sequence of events detailed in the lawsuit are as follows:
Morrison and Luft called the Kitimat hospital on the evening of Jan. 27 to say they’d be coming in because Morrison was experiencing painful contractions. At the time, Morrison was two weeks overdue.
The pair arrived at the hospital where a nurse examined the baby’s heart rate, which was recorded at 140. Morrison said she was experiencing fluid leakage but the nurse did not examine her further.
When the on-call doctor arrived, Dr. Huang, he “took about 10 minutes” checking on Morrison, but did not do any kind of examination. He then said “there was nothing he could do for them and that he did not understand why they came to KGH” and that they should have gone to Terrace.
The pair left the hospital around 7 p.m. and called an ambulance so paramedics could take them to Mills Memorial Hospital, a roughly 45-minute drive.
When the ambulance arrived, a paramedic refused to take them unless they paid for the trip. Under B.C.’s Health Act, ambulance services can involve payment through insurance providers or by cost of the patient.
Morrison and Luft agreed to pay, however, the paramedic still refused because Huang said transportation was not necessary.
Morrison’s father drove them to Terrace, when she started to experience increasingly intense contractions.
Upon arrival, at about 8 p.m., the pair waited 15 minutes before a nurse gave Morrison a blanket and set up a heart rate monitor. Two nurses and three doctors, identified as Dr. Passmore, Dr. McCann, Dr. McGivery, looked at the heart rate monitor, but were unable to find a heartbeat.
Morrison asked a fourth physician, Dr. Jacobus Strydom, to perform a Cesarian but was told “he did not see the point and it was not in her best interest for future pregnancies.” Morrison said she wanted to save her baby.
The pair attempted to leave the hospital “to find help elsewhere” when Morrison’s mother arrived. She demanded that her daughter be monitored for her fluids and oxygen, receive oxycotin to regulate her contractions and for an additional examination to be done before doing a Cesarian.
Morrison was offered fentanyl for her pain, as well as morphine and nitrous oxide. She gave birth to a seven pound and eight ounce baby girl, named Coral-Lee Edith Cheryl Luft, at 1:55 a.m.
The baby was washed and wrapped in a blanket and given to Morrison, but “no attempts to resuscitate the baby were made.”
No examination was done on the baby.
According to the court documents, Morrison’s health records included “erroneous and racial stereotyping” such as that she was in an abusive relationship, that her parents had diabetes, that she had annual urinary tract infections and was depressed, and that her parents were alcoholics and recovering from drug use.
Since the incident, the couple say they’ve experienced emotional and psychological trauma, grief, loss of the will to live, shame and embarrassment.
None of those named in the lawsuit have filed a response as of Feb. 12.
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