Labrador youth with collapsed lung told to travel long distance to hospital 

By Evan Careen

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A Labrador family wants answers about why a 15-year-old with a collapsed lung had to be driven to a hospital 40 kilometres away rather than waiting for an ambulance.

Peter Penashue @PeterPenashue · May 6 Meshkuss left last night around midnight for Janeway Hospital in St. John’s NL. Not sure when he will have his surgery. Will keep you updated.

Peter Penashue of Sheshatshiu took to social media on Tuesday to express his concern over what happened when his 15-year-old grandson, Meshkuss, was rushed to the Mani Ashini Community Clinic in the Innu community.

Penashue, a former MP, said his grandson was walking home from school on Monday when his lung collapsed. The boy’s mother happened to be passing by and rushed him to the clinic. It was the second time Meshkuss’s lung has collapsed, and he was waiting for surgery to fix the issue when the second incident happened. His other lung also partially collapsed this time, Penashue said.

“One lung collapsed and the other one was half working, yet the nurse decided to send him up to Goose Bay in his mother’s car with no medical support,” he said.

“If an ambulance wasn’t there, he should have been held there, where there was oxygen and medical support, until there was one.

Meshkuss was struggling to breath all the way to Goose Bay.”

Penashue said the boy made it to the hospital, where he was stabilized, and is awaiting a medivac to St. John’s to get the surgery he needs.

SaltWire Network contacted Labrador Grenfell Health (LGH) about the case and was told the health authority cannot comment on confidential client information or care, and “have been made aware of concerns regarding care and are gathering all relevant information.”

An emailed statement said LGH operates three ambulances in the central Labrador area, with one ambulance stationed in Sheshatshiu at the clinic, keeping with provincial ambulance response guidelines, and that LGH follows clinical guidance on care, including transportation to the emergency department.

“Regional nurses working in community clinics are supported by physicians working in the emergency departments in our hospital sites,” the statement said. “If an individual is assessed as stable by a regional nurse at the Mani Ashini Clinic, transportation by non-emergent means (including community transport or private

vehicle) would be explored.”

Penashue said he is frustrated with medical care in the region and for Innu people specifically and has been for a long time.

“I want answers, but this sort of thing shouldn’t happen, particularly with all the discussions we’ve had on systemic racism and on medical issues and health issues,” he said. “It shouldn’t be happening in 2021 in our community.”

Marlene Brown, an advocate for better health care in the region, said access is an issue in all parts of Labrador. It’s just accepted as the way it is, she said, which shows how common the issues are.

Brown said a review needs to be done of the entire healthcare system in Labrador, and people need to work together to demand change. She started a petition to provincial Health Minister Dr. John Haggie demanding changes to the system, which has garnered almost 900 signatures.

“We need enough people to say, `this is an issue and has been going on now for years and we want a resolution,”’ she said.

Penashue said it is common to hear stories from Innu of problems with the healthcare system, and it has been raised by the First Nation leadership with the current government, and others before them.

“It’s a game that’s played and played often, and that’s frustrating to people here. They want things to change.”

Evan Careen is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the TELEGRAM. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada


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