The daughter of a man from The Pas who suffered a heart attack and died after waiting hours for a Lifeflight air ambulance is calling for an inquest into her father’s death.
Chenae Bear wants answers as to why Gordon Jebb reportedly waited 12 hours for a flight to Winnipeg to receive critical care at Health Sciences Centre.
"I just feel like what happened to my dad — it was an injustice," Bear said Tuesday. "I think that the government’s policies, or lack thereof — the problems that they had (with Lifeflight) basically played a role in my dad’s death and I feel that an inquest is necessary."
Jebb, 63, had diabetes most of his life, but had not experienced a life-threatening situation before, according to his daughter. On July 2, he suffered a heart attack, fell into a coma and was placed on life support in The Pas.
According to his family, Jebb had an ICU bed waiting for him at HSC, but due to delays with Lifeflight, he waited several hours for transport. He died in Winnipeg on July 5.
Amanda Lathlin (NDP MLA for The Pas) and Opaskwayak Cree Nation Chief Christian Sinclair joined Bear in calling for an inquest from the chief medical examiner’s office.
"Why did it take 12 hours for a man who just suffered a serious heart attack to sit and wait idle before he was flown to Winnipeg for medical care?" Sinclair said in a prepared statement. "Health care in Canada is a basic human right... A full investigation needs to take place to understand why a safe plane wasn’t provided to our region."
In an interview, Lathlin sympathized with Jebb’s family.
"(Bear) can’t just sit by and not wonder what could have happened if her father was Lifeflight-ed out much earlier... and I don’t blame her," Lathlin said by phone. "If it was my father who was lying there for 12 hours, I would not be able to go on without answers.
"What happened that day?"
However, a provincial spokesman denied it took 12 hours to send a plane for Jebb, saying it took about 61/2 hours for paramedics to arrive by air.
The province is reviewing what steps could have been taken to speed up patient transport, the spokesman said.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen was not made available for an interview Tuesday.
Jebb’s heart attack happened during a two-week period where Lifeflight doctors had refused to fly due to safety concerns with the province’s newly acquired private plane.
Dr. Renate Singh, medical director of Lifeflight, declined to comment on the incident, citing concerns for the patient’s privacy.
The Manitoba government opted to fully privatize air-ambulance travel in early June, contracting a Beechcraft King Air 200 from Babcock Canada to replace its aging Cessna Citation jets.
Lifeflight doctors (and later their professional association, Doctors Manitoba) argued the new plane wasn’t as fast or as well-equipped.
By July 8, the doctors decided to staff the new plane after taking several test flights and making requests for upgrades, which the government was accommodating.
The provincial spokesman said Lifeflight was "never grounded," as the NDP claimed, since other staff — including nurses, respiratory therapists and advanced-care paramedics — were available to provide service during the doctors’ two-week hiatus.
"We extend our sympathies to friends and family of Gordon Jebb for their loss. It is disappointing that the NDP would use this family’s loss as an opportunity to put incorrect information on the record in an attempt to scare Manitobans," the spokesman said.
Politics aside, Bear hopes no other northern Manitoba family will experience a loss like hers after an agonizing wait for air-ambulance service.
"I think people need to be made aware of what happened to him and the repercussions of taking away Lifeflight. It is a basic necessity for people who live in northern communities," Bear said.
She hopes her dad is remembered as a "funny, caring (and) easygoing guy."
"He didn’t like to cause problems, he just made light of situations. He could make you laugh," Bear said.
"He just had a very kind heart (and) kind spirit, and it was just really devastating the way that it happened, because it was a very confusing, hectic situation for myself and my family."
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 at 8:32 PM CDT: Updates headline. Thanks BM!
9:22 PM: Fixes typo in photo caption.