Northern Health and other defendants refute lawsuit's allegations of racism in death of unborn Indigenous baby

·3 min read
Kitimat General Hospital is one of the defendants named in a civil lawsuit filed by a couple that alleges the facility's staff did not provide proper care which they allege resulted in the death of their baby. (District of Kitimat - image credit)
Kitimat General Hospital is one of the defendants named in a civil lawsuit filed by a couple that alleges the facility's staff did not provide proper care which they allege resulted in the death of their baby. (District of Kitimat - image credit)

Northern Health and other defendants say they did nothing wrong in their treatment of a Haisla woman and her partner who are suing over the death of their unborn baby girl, claiming they were denied proper medical care and were subjected to racial stereotyping.

The response filed in B.C. Supreme Court says counter to claims made by Sarah Morrision and Ronald Luft, the couple refused to allow a doctor to assess Morrison soon after she arrived at Kitimat General Hospital the evening of Jan. 27, two weeks overdue and experiencing contractions.

The response says Morrison was in a maternity assessment room when the attending nurse brought in the on-call doctor, Dr. Li Huang.

"Dr. Huang informed the plaintiffs that he needed to assess Ms. Morrison to determine whether she could deliver at KGH or not. In response, Mr. Luft began yelling and alleged that the plaintiffs were being refused service," reads the response.

"The plaintiffs refused Dr. Huang's request to assess Ms. Morrison and exited KGH."

The documents say KGH has the capability to only support low-risk deliveries.

"Patients requiring higher level maternity/fetal care are sent to Mills Memorial Hospital or other facilities," the response says.

In their lawsuit, Morrison and Luft said Dr. Huang — who is named as one of several individual defendants — allegedly told them, "there was nothing he could do for them and that he did not understand why they came to Kitimat General Hospital, stating they should have gone to the hospital in Terrace."

The room that was prepared for an unborn baby in Kitimat, B.C., whose death is at the centre of a lawsuit alleging racism played a role in it.
The room that was prepared for an unborn baby in Kitimat, B.C., whose death is at the centre of a lawsuit alleging racism played a role in it.(Supplied by Dutin Gaucher)

Morrison said she and Luft became distressed and called an ambulance in an effort to get to Mills Memorial in Terrace, about a 45-minute drive away.

The couple claim the ambulance took them from one end of the KGH hospital parking lot to the other, and that an ambulance attendant refused to take them to the hospital in Terrace, saying Dr. Huang told them that it was not necessary to transport them by ambulance.

The response says when the ambulance pulled into the KGH ambulance bay an emergency nurse, "informed Ms. Morrison that she was welcome to be assessed at KGH. The plaintiffs did not re-enter KGH but left in a private vehicle at 19:14 hours."

Morrison said her father picked them up from the parked ambulance and drove them to the hospital in Terrace as her contractions increased.

The response says the couple arrived at Mills Memorial Hospital at around 20:05 hours, about 50 minutes later, where a nurse and doctor were both unable to detect a fetal heart rate.

Further ultrasounds conducted by different physicians "all showed no fetal cardiac activity," says the response. The baby was stillborn in the early hours of the morning.

In the response, the defendants say they acted appropriately and in accordance with the standard of practice and without improper motive.''

They refute the accusations of racial stereotyping.

"... Health authority defendants deny that they or their employees treated the plaintiffs with 'deliberate racial indifference' or acted 'despicably, maliciously, oppressively, with the wrongful intention of injuring the plaintiffs' and puts the plaintiffs to the strict proof thereof," reads the response.