LJI-A First Nations family and Indigenous leaders in Manitoba are mourning and seeking answers after they say a sick two-year-old girl died after being sent home from a clinic without being treated.
According to family representatives, two-year-old Santaya Tyo-Greyeyes of Norway House Cree Nation was taken by her mom Angel Tyo to a clinic in Norway House on June 27 because she was dealing with vomiting and a fever, and she was struggling to breathe.
The girl was not triaged or treated at the clinic, and her mom was told to take her home and give her Tylenol, and monitor her condition.
The next day, Santaya died, after her family noticed she had stopped breathing during a nap, and they tried to rush her back to the clinic.
In a Thursday news release, the same day a funeral for the toddler was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) offered their condolences to Santaya’s family, while also saying they planned to look into whether or not any actions or inactions of health care workers played any part in her death.
“On behalf of MKO, I extend sincere condolences to the parents, siblings, family, and community of Santaya Tyo-Greyeyes from Norway House Cree Nation,” MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said. “Our hearts are heavy when we lose a child.
“My office has been in contact with family representatives, and we will seek answers as to why Santaya passed away so suddenly. We need to know if, and where, the health system failed Santaya, and we need to ensure that no other children are harmed as a result of health system failures.”
MKO said they have been calling for changes and improvements to health care in remote and First Nations communities for a long time, because they believe the level of service in many of those communities is substandard, compared to health care in larger centres like Winnipeg.
“The pandemic has shown us how fragile our health care system is. It is time to create innovative, efficient models to strengthen our health care system,” Settee said. “We can do better and we have to do better.
“MKO is committed to collaborating with provincial and federal partners to ensure we develop and strengthen our health care system to one that is responsive, accountable, and inclusive to our First Nation citizens and communities.”
The organization, which represents and advocates for 26 Manitoba First Nations, said they will also now work to support the family after the loss of Santaya.
“MKO will be partnering with other Indigenous organizations to ensure we have the appropriate resources and expertise to provide wraparound support for the family,” Settee said.
“As the family lays Santaya to rest, I pray for all those that loved her in the difficult days ahead.”
RCMP confirmed to the Sun on Friday that they are investigating the girl’s death, but also said that her sudden passing does not appear to be suspicious in nature. An RCMP spokesperson said the Norway House detachment responded to a child's death in the community on June 28 just before 7 p.m.
“As per the Fatality Inquiries Act, every child death is investigated. In general, in these instances, the RCMP responds and takes direction from the medical examiner," the spokesperson said.
“The investigation is ongoing, but at this time the death does not appear to be suspicious.”
A spokesperson for the Manitoba government said that media requests should be sent to the federal government in this case because it falls under federal jurisdiction as Norway House Cree Nation Clinic is overseen by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) when the Sun reached the province for comment.
A spokesperson for ISC said in an email that “the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples and communities is a high priority for our government, and our thoughts are with the family for their loss”
ISC said they will be looking into the child’s death, but would not comment specifically on what actions will be taken, or if an investigation will be undertaken.
“Indigenous Services Canada continues to work directly with First Nations communities to ensure their health care needs are met. We are aware of the concerns raised about care provided at the Health Centre and Community Clinic in Norway House Cree Nation, and we are working with partners to examine this incident under ISC’s incident management policy, the spokesperson said.
“We cannot comment further on any potential actions at this time.”
Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun