An Indigenous woman in Alberta is suing an Edmonton hospital and a doctor after allegedly failing to receive help during a harrowing premature delivery-Zamkuwire - Zamkuwire.com

An Indigenous woman in Alberta is suing an Edmonton hospital and a doctor after allegedly failing to receive help during a harrowing premature delivery-Zamkuwire

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Indigenous woman files lawsuit against Alta. hospital, claiming racism, inhumane treatment

An Indigenous woman in Alberta is suing an Edmonton hospital and a doctor after allegedly failing to receive help during a harrowing premature delivery.

 

WARNING: This article describes the death of an infant in a health-care setting.

A Bigstone Cree Nation woman is alleging that both she and her now-deceased daughter were treated inhumanely while she was giving birth in an Edmonton hospital in June 2020.

Pearl Gambler alleges that she was mistreated at the Misericordia Community Hospital, including being left alone to give birth, delays in treatment, and that a hospital staff member referred to her dead infant daughter as “a specimen.”

“My daughter should have not had to fight for her life because I’m Indigenous. She should have had fair treatment like anybody else that comes into that hospital,” Gambler said at a news conference in Edmonton on Thursday.

Gambler was supported at the news conference by the chief of her First Nation, as well as Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, both of whom are calling for accountability and reform.

Noskey made a number of calls for action, including a public inquiry into adverse health effects for Indigenous people and systemic discrimination in the healthcare system.

“What happened to Pearl and her daughter proves that Indigenous lives continue to be less important than others in Alberta’s health care system. This has to change,” Noskey said.

Gambler has also filed a statement of claim with the Court of King’s Bench in Edmonton in June 2022 that was amended last month, claiming $1.3 million in damages.

Lawsuit alleges racial discrimination

The claim alleges that Gambler and her daughter Sakihitowin did not receive adequate medical care because of her race.

Gambler’s lawyer said anti-Indigenous racism happens in the healthcare system and that Gambler is sharing her story to help change that.

None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been proven in court. The claim names Covenant Health and Gambler’s obstetrician as defendants, though the doctor’s name is redacted on the version provided to CBC.

In response to an interview request, Covenant Health spokesperson Karen Diaper said the health authority is reviewing the allegations.

“Covenant Health takes any and all complaints and concerns seriously, including allegations of racism and discrimination,” she said in an email. “Racism and discrimination in all forms have no place within Covenant Health.”

She added that due to privacy legislation, Covenant won’t comment on a specific patient.

Alberta Health Services is mandated to deliver healthcare in the province, and provides provincial funding to Covenant as a service provider. In an emailed statement, spokesperson Kerry Williamson said AHS is aware many Indigenous people have concerns about accessing healthcare, and said AHS has a number of programs underway to address that.

“AHS will continue to work with Indigenous communities and our partners to improve the care we provide, ensuring culturally safe, accessible healthcare for everyone,” Williamson said.

Bigstone Cree First Nation member Pearl Gambler during her pregnancy with her daughter Sakihitowin. (Supplied.)

According to the statement of claim, Gambler was 20 weeks pregnant in June 2020 when she began experiencing pain.

She was already a mother of three, and had so far had an uneventful pregnancy.

After a second visit to the obstetrician, the doctor told her to go to Misericordia Hospital, and that she would arrange for Gambler to have a bed reserved in the obstetrical ward.

The claim alleges that problems began upon her arrival on the obstetrical unit on June 11, 2020, when a staff person looked at Gambler — her hair in braids and wearing a shirt that said “Strong. Resilient. Indigenous” – and said “there is nothing for you here.”

Gambler and her partner then waited several hours in the hospital’s emergency room before getting a room, according to the claim.

It alleges that as the hours went by, staff refused to provide her with the results of an ultrasound that was done.

It’s alleged that early the next morning Gambler was told by two doctors she should not undergo a vaginal exam because of the potential for complications, but that a short time later her own doctor arrived and insisted on doing the exam despite Gambler’s protests.

It’s alleged Gambler eventually consented under duress, and that shortly after the doctor left, she began to have intense contractions.

The claim alleges Gambler repeatedly called out for help, and that after being left alone for a lengthy period of time a nurse came in and watched her give birth to her daughter but did not help her despite her pleas for assistance.

“He stood to the side of the room with his hand over his mouth and did not move to help Ms. Gambler,” it reads.

The claim alleges that there are medical records showing that the baby was born alive. It alleges she was not provided with medical care and later died.

It’s also alleged that Gambler was unable to deliver her placenta and began hemorrhaging, but didn’t get timely care and had to wait five hours for surgery.

It’s alleged that it was right before the surgery that a staff member asked her if she would like to take her “specimen” home, and that Gambler insisted her daughter had been born alive and would be coming home with her to receive a proper burial.

Speaking at the news conference, Gambler said that she was unable to bring herself to see a doctor for quite some time after her daughter’s death.

“I couldn’t for a long time,” she said. “The trust was gone.”

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