Northern health care decried in wake of Norway House child death

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The family of a two-year-old child who died last month in Norway House Cree Nation is claiming medical negligence and calling for a review of Manitoba’s northern health-care system.

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The family of a two-year-old child who died last month in Norway House Cree Nation is claiming medical negligence and calling for a review of Manitoba’s northern health-care system.

On June 27, Santaya Tyo-Greyeyes was running a temperature and having difficulty breathing. Her mother, Angel Tyo, says she brought the child to a Norway House nursing station but the staff there did not adequately treat the child.

Within 24 hours, Santaya was dead.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Angel Tyo cries as her sister, Bernadette Smith, speaks to the media before the wake for Angel’s two-year-old daughter, Santaya Tyo-Greyeyes, at the Mosaic funeral home in Winnipeg on Thursday.

“We believe that Santaya’s death was a result of the lack of health care in northern communities,” NDP MLA Bernadette Smith (also Tyo’s sister) said Thursday in Winnipeg. “They said that Angel was doing everything that she should be doing as a mom, and to take (Santaya) home (and) give her Tylenol.”

According to Smith, Tyo was concerned about her daughter’s health and slept with her that night to monitor her breathing. On June 28, Tyo left Santaya in the care of her teenage siblings to run errands. When she returned around 5 p.m., she believed the child was asleep on the couch.

Shortly before 7 p.m., Tyo checked on her daughter and realized she wasn’t breathing, Smith said. Santaya was rushed to the local health centre, but did not recover.

Smith and Tyo met with media Thursday afternoon, outside an Inkster Boulevard funeral home, where services were held for Santaya.

Tyo had difficulty speaking, however, and could only confirm Smith’s account of what happened between sobs.

“They worked on her and did everything they could for 45 minutes,” Tyo said, tears streaming down her face. “I just told them, ‘That’s enough.’”

Smith and Tyo say staff at the nursing station (located some 460 kilometres north of Winnipeg) did not properly assess Santaya upon her initial visit. The decision to send her home without care led to her death, they alleged.

“No parent should be ever having to bury their child,” Smith said. “Santaya should have been triaged. A nurse should have looked at her (or) a doctor. They should have assessed her breathing — they did none of that.”

On July 1, Smith asked RCMP to retrieve video footage from the nursing station from the time in question. “When I went there, I wasn’t very assured that they would get that footage,” the Point Douglas MLA said.

RCMP did not confirm to the Free Press whether they were looking into such recordings: “In general, in these instances, the RCMP responds and takes direction from the medical examiner. The investigation is ongoing, but at this time, the death does not appear to be suspicious.”

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner performed an autopsy, and the family had expected to hear the results Thursday, Smith said.

The family is asking Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak to advocate for an inquest. It would like to see the northern medical system held accountable, Smith said.

SUPPLIED Angel Tyo and her daughter, Santaya.

“On behalf of MKO, I extend sincere condolences to the parents, siblings, family, and community of Santaya Tyo-Greyeyes from Norway House Cree Nation. Our hearts are heavy when we lose a child,” MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said in a news release. “We need to know if, and where, the health system failed Santaya and ensure that no other children are harmed as a result of health systems failure.”

Settee also called Manitoba’s health-care system “broken,” and called upon the provincial and federal governments to create efficient and innovative models to strengthen it. He promised to partner with other Indigenous organizations to provide support for Santaya’s family.

“We can do better, and we have to do better… As the family lays Santaya to rest today, I pray for all those that loved her in the difficult days ahead,” he said.

Patty Hajdu, minister of Indigenous services and MP for Thunder Bay—Superior North, also provided an email statement to the Free Press.

“This is a tragic and deeply concerning situation, and my thoughts are with the family. Indigenous Services Canada will thoroughly investigate to ensure we understand what has happened, and provide supports to the family and community as needed,” she said.

ISC previously said it plans to hold a patient safety review into Santaya’s death. The review will involve staff interviews, an examination of patient records, and possible recommendations to improve care.

— with files from Dylan Robertson

tyler.searle@freepress.mb.ca

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Updated on Thursday, July 7, 2022 6:58 PM CDT: Adds photo

Updated on Friday, July 8, 2022 7:15 AM CDT: Fixes typo

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