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Manitoba isn't making any promises about a recommended independent review of the health-care services offered within its provincial jails in the wake of an epileptic man's in-custody death.
But the provincial justice minister said the department is working to prevent future deaths and is reviewing recommendations that call for more training for health-care staff who work in the Winnipeg Remand Centre.
The 11 recommendations were released Tuesday from a provincial court inquest into the death of a Winnipeg man who died after suffering seizures inside the Winnipeg Remand Centre three years ago.
Bradley Errol Greene, a 26-year-old father of four, died May 1, 2016 of complications from two epileptic seizures, which stopped his heart and caused brain damage. He wasn't given access to his anti-seizure medication while he was in custody, and correctional officials handcuffed him and shackled his ankles while he was thrashing during the first seizure, the inquest judge was told. Paramedics had to ask multiple times for the restraints to be removed when they were trying to save Greene's life.
Greene had been arrested on a charge of drinking alcohol in violation of previous release conditions. When he was first arrested less than two months earlier, he had a seizure inside the remand centre and had to be taken to hospital.
In the 170-page report, provincial court Judge Heather Pullan called for an independent review of health-care services at the remand centre and recommended increased training for nurses about seizures and epilepsy. The recommendations include asking the province to develop a strategic plan for recruiting and retaining nurses to work in correctional facilities and bring in a formal accreditation process to recognize the specific skills required to work as a correctional nurse within the jail's medical unit.
The justice department received a copy of the inquest's findings on Thursday and is still reviewing the document, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen told reporters during a news conference at the legislature Tuesday.
"We will be accountable to the Ombudsman in our response to these recommendations. I do want to make it clear that our government did take immediate action following Mr. Greene's death and certainly other in-custody deaths in Winnipeg in the remand centre. We have developed and formalized an internal review process that's carried out with in-custody deaths when they do occur," he said.
Cullen did not make a commitment to launch an independent review. He said the department has established a working group of senior staff to study the inquest findings.
Greene was one of five inmates who died inside the remand centre in 2016. As a result, correctional officials conducted an internal review and made changes to their practices, including improving record-keeping and having a medical professional working inside the facility seven days a week. Greene died on the weekend, when there was no doctor on duty.
Cullen didn't provide details on the government's planned response to specific recommendations, nor did he set out a timeline for the working group to complete its review of the report. He said he recognizes "there is more work to do" to prevent future deaths, and he offered his condolences to Greene's family.
"Any death in custody is one too many," he said.
The family's lawyer, Corey Shefman, said the inquest's recommendations clearly point out deficiencies in the correctional system. He represented Greene's widow, Rochelle Pranteau, during the mandatory inquest, which wrapped up last October.
"In the course of learning about how Errol died, we also learned about the serious lack of medical care for inmates in Manitoba's correctional facilities," Shefman said. "So we're hoping, from this inquest, that corrections will take a real hard look at how they do business, and as a result, no one else will have to go through what Rochelle went through."
Since 2017, four people have died inside the remand centre; two of the deaths were from natural causes. One man died of suicide earlier this year, Cullen said.
Pranteau is suing the Manitoba government for damages over Greene's death. The legal action will go ahead now that the inquest's findings have been released, Shefman said.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
Updated on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 5:08 PM CDT: Writethru
10:36 PM: Adds photo
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