Northern Health files legal response denying racism, improper care allegations

Joshua Azizi
03/10/2021

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Northern Health has filed a legal response that denies the claims in a lawsuit from a Kitimat couple, who allege they were denied proper care and subjected to racist stereotypes before their baby passed away in a stillborn birth.

In their lawsuit, Sarah Morrison and Ronald Luft say they arrived at Kitimat General Hospital on January 27th when Morrison started experiencing contractions. The lawsuit claims a nurse found a fetal heart rate of 140 beats per minute, but a doctor told the couple he couldn't help them and they should have gone to Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace.

It also claims that the doctor "did not offer to assess or carry out any examination" of Morrison.

In Northern Health's version of events, the health authority says when a nurse examined Morrison, she spent several minutes trying to find a heartbeat on the baby and only detected a faint, five-second heart rate at 140 beats per minutes.

Northern Health says the nurse retrieved a doctor, who told the couple he needed to assess Morrison to determine if she could give birth at KGH, which the defence says can only support low-risk deliveries. Afterwards, the defence says Morrison and Luft alleged they were being denied service, refused the doctor's offer, and left the hospital.

According to the lawsuit, the couple then tried to get an ambulance ride to Mills Memorial Hospital, but the ambulance driver said he wouldn't take them because the doctor said it wasn't necessary.

Northern Health's defence says that when the ambulance arrived, an emergency nurse told Morrison she could be assessed at KGH, but she refused.

Morrison's father eventually drove them to Mills Memorial Hospital, where her baby was stillborn. The lawsuit states that no attempts were made to save the baby.

Northern Health says when Morrison arrived at Mills Memorial, staff were unable to detect a fetal heartbeat.

In their defence claim, the health authority says staff acted appropriately and within standard practice, and that nothing their employees did or failed to do contributed to the death of Morrison's baby.

The lawsuit also states there were racial stereotypes on Morrison's health records, which it claims influenced her treatment. These include statements that Morrison was in an abusive relationship, and that her parents are alcoholics and recovering from drugs. 

Northern Health says the statements came from an antenatal questionnaire given to maternity patients that wasn't completed at either hospital. They also claim staff acted appropriately and without racial stereotyping.

Neither the allegations from Morrison's lawsuit or the defence from Northern Health have been tested in court.

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