When Kelly Bosum brought her toddler in for day surgery at Montreal’s Ste-Justine children’s hospital to have tubes put into his ears, the last thing she expected was to have her Aboriginal heritage insulted. According to Bosum, however, she has since had to file a complaint with the hospital after a June 1 incident left her outraged.
According to Bosum, an Atikamekw woman who lives near Chibougamau, an altercation took place between her and a surgeon after tensions rose stemming from miscommunication between Bosum and the hospital.
Bosum brought her son in for an 8:30 am appointment for surgery but upon arrival was told that not only should she have been there one hour prior to prepare the child for day surgery but also that she should not have given him any food or liquid from midnight onward. Bosum said she was never given any of these instructions.
She said that the surgeon, Dr. Marie-Claude Quintal, reprimanded her for this and said that they would have to negotiate with the anesthesiologist to see if surgery would be possible later on that day and that this would be costly as the time had already been squandered.
The hospital was able to give her son another surgery time later on during the day. Then, after the surgery was completed, she was called into Quintal’s office and asked who was footing the bill for her trip to Montreal for her son’s surgery.
“I told her that it was the department (ministry) of Aboriginal Affairs, and she said, ‘I guess this is what our (hostie d’impôt) goddamn tax dollars go towards.’ I was so surprised that I just didn’t know what to say.”
According to Bosum, the surgeon went on to talk about all of the accommodations that had to be made for her child. When Bosum finally did respond, saying that she was proud of her Aboriginal heritage, the situation only escalated.
“I told her that she had no business talking to me that way and that I was proud to be Aboriginal and after that she asked me what planet I was living on, and said that we (Indians) should be eliminated a little,” said Bosum.
Infuriated, Bosum said she posted about what had transpired on Facebook and it was from there that she heard not only about other stories of other Aboriginal parents having similar experiences at Ste-Justine but was also encouraged by them to file a complaint.
Bosum said that the hospital is investigating her complaint and that they have told her that they will get back to her within 45 days.
Officials at Ste-Justine declined to comment as all ongoing complaint investigations are confidential. However, they may make a public statement when the process is completed, in light of the media attention that this case has garnered.
At the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay, interim Commissioner of Complaints Louise Valiquette said that anyone who feels that they have been subject to unfair treatment should file a complaint with the institution’s individual Commission of Complaints, also known as the ombudsman. And, in instances where they are unsure if an incident qualifies as unfair treatment, she is the person who can guide them through the process.
“There are a lot of situations where this can be done. If you feel that you have been subjected to racism or if you feel that you have been mistreated in any way, or did not receive the services that you were supposed to receive you can file a complaint. And, I can talk to you about what you have experienced to see if there is something that could be done because sometimes it is not evident and so you can call me and I will help,” said Valiquette.
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