More damning testimony to Viens Commission about racist incidents at Val-d’Or hospital

Share Button

Natasia Mukash’s testimony to the Viens Comission in 2017 of a traumatic experience at the hands of Val-d’Or nurses and doctors while having a miscarriage inspired former Mistissini Chief William Mianscum to disclose his own harrowing story to the commission June 15.

Mianscum took the stand to describe how, in May 2015, he went to the emergency room at the Val-d’Or hospital after experiencing breathing and vision problems on the way home from a long trip. Diagnosed with water in his lungs, Mianscum was put on a respirator and, once stabilized, given oxygen through nose tubes.

Later on, Mianscum had to use the washroom and called for a nurse to help remove the nose tubes. While helping him to the washroom she told another nurse, he reported to the commission, “Je promène mon chien” (I’m walking my dog).

In Mukash’s case, she had been medevacked to Val-d’Or from her home community of Whapmagoostui in 2016 after having had a miscarriage 10 days earlier but continued bleeding.

At the hospital, Mukash said that nurses mocked the way she spoke French, unaware that she understood what they were saying about her. At one point she was told to use a toilet covered in vomit and, finally, to take a taxi to a hotel without seeing a doctor.

During Mianscum’s stay at the hospital, he heard another Cree patient complain to nurses of pain. Every time the man from Waskaganish called out, the nurses told him a doctor would see him in the morning.

When the man finally saw a doctor at 7 am, he was medevacked to Montreal immediately. According to Mianscum, the patient died on the plane. He told the commission he believed the nurse “had something against Indigenous people.”

Mianscum was shaken by the incident and called for better education for health-care workers in Val-d’Or.

However, according to Josée Flageole of Wiichihiituwin (formerly known as Cree Patient Services), both cases are isolated incidents. She says that the relations between Crees and hospital staff in Val-d’Or are “very good.”

Wiichihiituwin has its own office within the hospital.

“Any time there is a case that we know about, we act on it right away,” said Flageole. “I go and see the Head of Services for the hospital and open a complaint right away. They immediately investigate and if necessary, disciplinary measures are taken.”

At that, Flageole said that Wiichihiituwin really makes an effort to make their presence known to Crees who are staying in the hospital or receiving any kind of treatment.

“We always go on the floors where they are and make sure that everything is okay with our patients,” said Flageole. “Let’s say we have a patient who doesn’t want to be hospitalized or doesn’t want to have surgery. Before their procedure or before they try to leave without treatment, we ensure that everything is explained to them thoroughly in their own language so that they really understand.”

While the strikingly similar incidents were separated by a year, the Viens Commission recognized both as evidence of discrimination. “I feel like this is another horror story,” said Commission chairperson Jacques Viens, a retired Quebec Superior Court Justice.

Share Button

Comments are closed.