The ex-husband of a victim of a hit and run in downtown Chilliwack says the bad treatment she received at the hospital after the incident was at least partially racially motivated.
Mary Stewart was crossing Williams Street at Bole Avenue shortly after 1 a.m. on Sept. 9 when she was struck by a vehicle described as a light-coloured semi.
The vehicle did not stop and the 55-year-old was left with a broken femur, other fractures, and a crushed foot. Stewart was rushed to hospital by ambulance where she was examined, received X-rays and then promptly discharged.
That’s when her terrible night turned into a nightmare.
“To me it is really crazy that could happen at all,” her ex-husband and father of her children Eddie Julian told The Progress Monday.
Julian said that despite Stewart’s serious injuries, and despite receiving an X-ray, she was kicked out of the hospital into the rain. He attributes the staff’s actions to the fact that she is aboriginal from the Skwah First Nation, and a recovering addict on the methadone program.
“Mary was treated worse than the chickens that are being abused on the farms here,” Julian told APTN News last Friday, comparing it to the ongoing controversy involving accusations of animal abuse at a Chilliwack chicken farm.
Julian wasn’t with Stewart that night, she was with her new partner Raymond. Julian said when a male nurse grabbed her leg and started to pull her off a stretcher into a wheelchair it was Raymond who stopped him and did his best to get her in the chair.
The two were told to leave, but without a ride or a phone, they stayed in a covered area to wait out the pouring rain.
“Because they didn’t leave when she was released they said they would call the police,” Julian said. “Looking back on it, that might have been the best thing to happen.”
In excruciating pain, Stewart was pushed in the wheelchair in the rain along the bumpy sidewalk.
“They only made it over a block behind the Shoppers Drug Mart. That was all that she could take riding in that wheelchair. It was excruciating pain.”
The two waited out the night in the alley, then went to a pharmacy in the morning where they were told she should be at the hospital.
In a statement to The Progress Tuesday, Fraser Health apologized for the incident and confirmed Stewart was mistakenly ordered out of CGH.
“We are very sorry about the experience this patient had while being treated in our hospital, and this is certainly not the level of care we strive for,” Fraser Health spokesperson Nafisa Abdulla said in an emailed statement.
“What I can tell you is that after further examination of this patient’s test results, we realized she had been prematurely discharged, so we immediately reached out for her to come back to the hospital for treatment.
“We are looking at what happened during this patient’s care journey, including speaking to staff about their interactions with her and better understanding the sequence of events that led to her negative experience.”
Abdulla said the manager of the emergency department is leading this work while senior hospital staff conducts a formal Patient Safety Review of this incident.
“A Patient Safety Review is a process protected under Section 51 of the Evidence Act that enables doctors, nurses and other staff who were involved in a patient’s care to openly review and discuss what happened. The objective is to see if there are opportunities for improvements in our health care system and the care we provide.”
She said once this is done, next steps including possible changes around “cultural safety” could be implemented.
“In the meantime, we continue to support our patient as she recovers from her injuries.”
One way is the “Elder in Residence” program, which provides guidance, counselling and support to patients, ensuring Indigenous perspectives and approaches to wellness are honoured.
Stewart was still at CGH by Tuesday, awaiting a program to start rehabilitating from her injuries.
Julian said he feels Stewart is being treated better now, but he has heard secondhand from other visitors that she is not getting the response to pain medication as quickly as she should.
“Sometimes they don’t respond quick enough,” he said, adding that he heard on one evening she asked at 1 a.m. and didn’t received medication until 6 a.m.
As for any review done by CGH or Fraser Health, Julian is hopeful for Stewart’s case but he wonders how often former addicts and/or Indigenous people in general are treated like this.
“I’m hoping something will come of it,” he said. “In Mary’s case maybe something will happen, but what about the next person who needs care in an emergency?”
Any witnesses to the Sept. 9 hit and run are asked to call the Chilliwack RCMP at 604-792-4611, or, to remain anonymous, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).