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Canada Hospital staff ignored Echaquan's pleas for help in August, woman says

04:05  01 october  2020
04:05  01 october  2020 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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Echaquan started live-streaming her experience on Facebook as her pain escalated, and staff at the hospital appeared indifferent to her pleas for help . Indigenous leaders say the video exposes the grim realities of systemic racism that have long gone ignored throughout the country.

Echaquan , a member of the Atikamekw Indigenous tribe found in Southwest Quebec, previously suffered similar issues and also had a heart condition, CBC reported. Her family believes she was given too much morphine and it contributed to her death, which is still under investigation.

a person standing in front of a window posing for the camera © Provided by The Gazette

In late August, Jennifer Mac Donald rushed to the hospital in Joliette to be with her father after he suffered a heart attack scare.

Sitting by him in the hallway, she could hear a woman screaming in a nearby cubicle, expressing concerns over the care she was receiving. She could also hear the patient attendants on duty.

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She described them Wednesday as indifferent and verbally aggressive, ignoring the woman’s pleas and at one point asking aloud, “Will she ever shut up?”

A month later, Mac Donald recognized the woman from that night in a live video published to Facebook on Monday. It was Joyce Echaquan.

As Echaquan’s death led to renewed calls this week for the government to address the issue of systemic racism in Quebec, Mac Donald felt the need to signal the treatment Echaquan broadcasted was not an isolated event.

A patient attendant herself at a local Alzheimer’s centre, Mac Donald approached Echaquan that night to see if she could help. She says she was told by staff to mind her own business.

“I should have followed my instincts and reported what I witnessed to security. Maybe it could have prevented something,” Mac Donald, 33, said on Wednesday. “No one deserves to be treated that way in a hospital.”

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Echaquan, a 37-year-old mother of seven from the Atikamekw nation of Manawan, died Monday at the Centre hospitalier de Lanaudière in disturbing circumstances.

In her last moments, she managed to record derogatory and insulting remarks made to her by hospital staff and broadcast them on Facebook .

Her family has since said she would often voice concerns about the poor treatment she received at the hospital. They confirmed Wednesday she had spoken about problems she experienced while there in late August.

Asked about the incident Mac Donald reported witnessing, the CISSS de Lanaudière, which oversees the hospital, said it has already launched an internal investigation into Echaquan’s death and will look into any events related to it.

On Tuesday, the hospital fired one of the nurses heard in the video.

a person posing for the camera:  Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman who was the mother of seven, died at a Joliette hospital on Monday. © Provided by The Gazette Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman who was the mother of seven, died at a Joliette hospital on Monday.

Two days after Echaquan’s death, reaction continued to pour in from across the province and country on Wednesday.

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In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called what happened “the worst form of racism when someone needed help the most.”

“This is an example, another example,” Trudeau said, “of systemic racism that is simply unacceptable in Canada.”

But the pain was most pointed in Joliette, where most of Echaquan’s family remained after making the three-hour drive down from Manawan for a vigil on Tuesday .

Echaquan’s cousin, Karine Echaquan, said the family had not received any support from the provincial government since arriving and had not been contacted by any elected official. They used money gathered at the vigil to pay for the six hotel rooms they needed.

Meanwhile, the family and those who knew Echaquan in Manawan have begun grappling with the difficult questions raised by her death.

“For many, it’s a search for reasons,” Constant Awashish, the Grand Chief of the Atikamekw Nation Council, said on Wednesday.

“These are troubling events. Especially when you see it in a video, witness that distress and feel so powerless toward it. People want justice, but they also want to feel safe.”

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Echaquan capturing the remarks on film, Awashish said, has led many to think back to their own family members who died while hospitalized. Were they subject to the same treatment in their last moments, he asked, but simply didn’t record it?

“We’re all looking for answers,” Awashish said. “We want the government to address this issue in a serious way, not just sweep it under the rug.”

During a news conference in Quebec City, Premier François Legault once more denounced the remarks heard in the video, saying he was “shocked by the racism” Echaquan was subjected to.

Asked whether he believes the police should investigate her death, Legault said there’s already a coroner’s investigation and internal investigation at the hospital, but that he isn’t “excluding anything.”

Earlier, Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade called on Indigenous Affairs Minister Sylvie D’Amours to step down from her position .

Anglade called D’Amours “unfit” for the position after her office released a statement underlining the first anniversary of the Viens Commission report Wednesday, praising the work that has been done in the last year. The statement did not mention Echaquan’s death.

The commission was a three-year inquiry into the way Indigenous Peoples are treated by public services in the province. It concluded that racism and prejudice against Indigenous Peoples remain prevalent, including in the health sector.

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With files from Presse Canadienne.

jfeith@postmedia.com

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