Elderly Indigenous man released from Quebec hospital wearing only a gown, family says
MONTREAL -- A Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) woman broke down in tears when she saw her husband upon returning to their home in Kanesatake from the hospital in the middle of winter dressed only in a hospital gown.
Cheryl Scott Nelson and her family feel the staff at the St. Eustache Hospital north of Montreal acted negligently when they discharged her husband Winston Soenrese Nelson Jan. 6 without so much as a jacket.
"It (the gown) was completely opened, all the left side of his leg was opened," said Cheryl. "He didn't have a coat on him. He had no blankets put on him. All his clothes were in two bags."
Temperatures that day were between -1 and -7 degrees Celsius when her husband was discharged after spending a week in the hospital with heart issues.
Winston began using a wheelchair after suffering a third stroke in 2013, Cheryl said she informed the hospital that she needed 24 hours to arrange transport with the community's medical transport taxi, as she does not drive.
When he arrived home in Kanesatake, his wife was shocked to see the state in which she said hospital staff let him leave.
"I started to cry," said Cheryl.
She then noticed his hearing aid was missing and called the hospital, but, after a brief search, she said staff told her they could not locate it.
"It's $1,600 worth of hearing aid and he needs it," she said, adding that the person she spoke to was rude, repeating "pas ici" ('not here') to her several times.
The health and social services governing body for the region told CTV News that they identified the patient, and are working to shed light on the circumstances surrounding Winston's departure from the hospital.
"We will contact the patient and their family to follow up on this situation," said Laurentians CISSS spokesperson Dominique Gauthier. "It is important to us that patients be released from hospital in a safe and humane manner."
Gauthier added that as a general rule, no patient leaves the hospital in a gown "unless a special situation requires it."
"If the person is incapacitated, contact is made with a family member or a community organization to ensure that the departure goes smoothly," said Gauthier.
In general, no user leaves in a gown, unless a special situation requires it, Gauthier said.
A representative from the hospital directed Cheryl to complaint forms which the family is meant to fill out, so the administration can look into the complaint about the hearing aid.
Mohawk Council of Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon said for the most part, members of his community have been treated well at the hospital in St. Eustache. He was shocked when hearing of how the elderly man was allegedly treated, particularly after the massive outcry after Atikamekw woman Joyce Echaquan's treatment on her deathbed at Joliette Hospital and other cases.
"I've never encountered that kind of treatment from staff at the hospital, but really shocked if they did treat him like that especially after Joyce Echaquan," said Simon. "You'd think they'd be more careful with how they're treating Indigenous people, especially people who are vulnerable like that. It's absolutely shameful if it's true."
The Quebec government has promised to implement changes in the health-care system.
Cheryl said she understands the stress health-care staff are under and even told her husband to be patient during his stay.
"I told Winston, 'Please be nice to them because if you're nice to them, they'll be nice to you,'" said his wife.
She is baffled and heartbroken that staff would let her husband out of a hospital improperly clothed for the winter.
"You don't treat a human being like that," said Cheryl. "I don't care if they're 70 or seven. You don't send them home with no clothes in -7 weather."