Northern Manitoba mother claims negligent health care after daughter’s near-death experience

A mother from the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in northern Manitoba shares her and her family’s experience at the remote community’s nursing station, saying their concerns about their daughter’s breathing were not listened to until until the situation becomes critical.

Akita Colomb said her then 7-month-old daughter, Lucillia Francois, started having breathing difficulties on August 29.

The 24-year-old mother-of-three told CTV News over eight days that the family made multiple trips to the nursing station.

“Eight long exhausting days and nights in and out of this nursing station, 2-3 times a day,” she said. « We have not been heard. »

Columbus said each time the baby was checked, but when her vitals stabilized the family was sent home only to return a few hours later when her breathing became difficult again.

In the early morning of September 6, Columbus said Lucillia’s condition had worsened to the point that she was out of breath.

« She was close to passing out from the lack of oxygen she was getting, » she said.

Panicking, Columbus said she called the community medical van, but after waiting 20 minutes, she ran to her neighbors who drove them to the nursing station instead.

That’s when Columbus said Lucillia was transferred to the Health Sciences Center Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg.

« Her body was about to stop breathing because she was so tired. She was literally fighting to breathe, so we immediately decided to intubate her. »

Columbus said Lucilla was in an induced coma for five days and was on a ventilator for 10 days.

She said she was diagnosed with RSV, pneumonia and a blood infection.

Since then, Lucillia has recovered enough to be discharged from hospital and the family is waiting in Winnipeg for the green light from specialists before returning home.

Now that the family is on the other side of the ER, Columbus wonders why she and her daughter have been sent home so often despite repeatedly coming to Mathias Colomb Nursing Station for care. .

« It’s our only health care system in this isolated community. The nearest hospital is two and a half hours away, » she said. « I’m grateful to have brought her here. I fought for her, but we shouldn’t have even gone through what we went through. »


Bernice Thorassie, whose job is to help First Nations families in the North who are sent out of their communities for health care, told CTV News Columbus’ story is not an isolated one.

« I hear that a lot, » browser client MKO told CTV News. « People go to the nursing station for pain for any reason, even chest pain, they’re given plain Tylenol. »

She also told CTV that many clients return to the nursing station for a persistent problem, but only when their condition is critical are they sent out of the community to an urban hospital.

This week, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin (KIM) and the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA) signed a declaration to eliminate all forms of Indigenous-specific racism in northern health care of Manitoba.

Thorassie said the signing was a good first step, but there is still work to be done since many remote First Nations nursing stations, including that of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, are federally run.

« I’m sure they’ll listen to us and I’m sure they’ll team up with us and begin the steps to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism in our health care, » she said.

In March 2018, MKO and the federal government signed a memorandum of understanding. The goal was to transform health care for people living in First Nations in northern Manitoba by bringing clinical care closer to home so people don’t have to leave their communities.

On Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs told CTV News in a written statement that the Government of Canada recognizes racism, stemming from the colonial history of Canada, remains entrenched in our country’s healthcare systems and continues to have catastrophic effects on First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals and communities.

They went on to write that ensuring cultural safety, recognizing Indigenous knowledge, and supporting Indigenous-led health services are essential to achieving the goal of eliminating anti-Indigenous racism in health systems.

« The Government of Canada remains committed to working with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous partners, and all those working in health to increase safety and respect for Indigenous peoples in Canada’s health systems, » says the press release.


Columbus said she filed a formal complaint about her experience at the nursing station, but has yet to receive a response.

« We go there for a reason and that’s to be assessed and our health concerns to be heard, but that’s not happening. I just want them to do their job, » she said.

The ISC spokesperson told CTV News they could not comment on specific details or cases in order to protect patient confidentiality under the Privacy Act, but they said: “We are aware of the concerns raised regarding the care provided at the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Nursing Station, and we are working with partners to review this incident as part of ISC’s Incident Management Policy.

Columbus wants others to hear about his family’s experience so they know they must persevere to get the health care they deserve.

« Your health issues can be heard, but you’ll have to keep pushing, » she said. « Despite if they keep pushing you aside and trying to shut you up. Probably wrong. »


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