APTN National News
The chair of the First Nations Health Council and Grand Chief of the Sto:lo Nation is calling the alleged racist treatment of a Sto:lo woman at the Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH) in B.C. the worst he’s ever heard.
“This is the most serious event I am aware of since I have been doing advocacy work,’ said Doug Kelly.
Kelly has been at the head of the council, a political body that meets regularly with area health authority officials, since 2010.
“I was shocked. CGH has been one of the better hospitals,” Kelly told APTN National News. “We’ve had complaints about a number of hospitals but I was shocked by this poor quality of care.”
Kelly is responding to the story of Mary Stewart.
The 55-year-old Sto:lo woman survived being hit by a semi-trailer truck in the early morning hours last week only to be allegedly kicked out of the Chilliwack General Hospital not once but twice the same night.
Stewart remains in the CGH after emergency surgery.
APTN has not been able to reach Stewart because of her surgery but we were able to speak with Eddie Julian, her former husband.
According to Julian, her foot and femur were damaged, and she suffered various fractures after she says she was hit by the truck.
He said she was kicked out of the hospital only hours later and handled roughly by a nurse who tried to get her into a wheelchair.
Julian added she decided to wait out the rain in the hospital lobby before being ordered out of the building.
“A second nurse came and said ‘You have to leave. If you don’t we will call the cops on you,’” he said.
Julian said Stewart and her companion sought shelter in a covered area nearby for the rest of the night with only a sheet over Stewart’s legs for warmth.
He said she didn’t have a ride or a phone and was sent back to the hospital the next day by a pharmacist at a local drugstore.
“Every crack in the sidewalk was excruciating for her,” Julian said. “She was in a lot of pain.”
Kelly said hospitals in the Fraser Health Authority serve up to 20,000 Aboriginal and Metis patients and have been the source of dozens of complaints.
“It’s usually about a grouchy nurse or a racist nurse,” he said. “We bring their behaviour to the attention of the Authority. We ask that appropriate cultural, respectful care is provided.
“But this, this will likely end up in front of a court.”
Julian said Stewart is considering legal action and is planning to meet with a lawyer this week.
“Everyone who hears about it becomes very upset,” he added.
Chilliwack RCMP confirmed Stewart was injured at about 1 a.m. on September 9, and that they took her statement three days later on September 12.
“We’re trying to ID the vehicle that may have struck her,” said Staff-Sgt. Steve Vrozyk of the Upper Fraser Valley RCMP detachment.
He added they are reviewing footage from surveillance cameras in the vicinity of the hit-and-run at the intersection of William Street and Bole Avenue, just east of the downtown core.
(Mary Stewart outside the Chilliwack General Hospital after surgery. Photo courtesy Eddie Julian)
Kelly intends to raise the matter with B.C.’s top Mountie, Chief Supt. Brenda Butterworth-Carr, an Indigenous woman from Yukon.
“I’m really troubled,” he said. “I do not want to see them not take complaints from our citizens seriously.”
Mary Stewart’s case isn’t the only one.
Barb Commodore said her family is suing the police after her son was allegedly beaten by officers following a car crash in Chilliwack four years ago.
“We are in the final stages now – waiting for a court date and possibly mediation,” she said.
Commodore said her son’s injuries weren’t treated properly at CGH, and her son has never been the same.
“His current mental capacity may never recover to where it once was,” she said. “He was intelligent and read a lot. The beating did not render him unconscious but he suffered a concussion, broken orbital bone, broken nose, broken jaw and a complete fractured cheekbone.
“His upper teeth had to be removed and he has a steel plate to hold his cheekbone together. He also had a dislocated shoulder and badly bruised ribs where the female RCMP officer kicked him,” she alleged. “Yes, he was on the ground and held there by the other officer.”
She said police took her son to the hospital but he was released.
Commodore said she took him back the next day.
“The cops told the hospital triage that my son’s injuries were the result of the car accident he was involved in the previous night,” she said. “Absolutely not true and not possible.
“So when I took him in the following day, I overheard the triage nurse mentioning this ‘accident’ and I immediately set him straight.”
“I made note that the nurse started a new file right then while keeping the original open and adding new dialogue to both. It was after this that the ER doctor made light of all the injuries my son had. The doctor looked at him and said to rest up for a week and he should be fine.”
Kelly said people like Commodore should contact the First Nations Health Council.
“When we become aware of complaints like this, and aware of a situation by a family, we can help,” he said, adding: “I can’t address complaints I don’t know about.”
The Health Authority told APTN it will investigate the allegations from Stewart.
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