Former grand chief of the Grand Council of the Crees spend 4 days in Montreal emergency room

The family of Matthew Mukash, the former grand chief of the Grand Council of the Crees in Quebec say he spent four days in a Montreal emergency room waiting for a room.

“To come here and to be waiting in an ER lobby for up to four days is incredibly intense,” says Jade Mukash, his granddaughter. “And for my grandfather, we just expected to have compassion and care just like any other patient would but I did not see that.”

Jade and her grandfather arrived at the Montreal General Hospital on Jan. 7 after leaving their community of Whapmagoostu, a small community on the shores of Hudson Bay 1,100 km north of Montreal.

According to Jade, there were no rooms available for her grandfather who had been sick and experiencing pain.

His son Pakesso, recorded Matthew Mukash recounting his story while in the hospital and shared it with APTN News. In the footage he said the emergency room was overflowing with patients.

“It was very busy. New people arriving regularly, some are even under the influence,” said Pakesso translating. “Some are aggressive and some have even wanted to fight. That’s what I’ve seen.”

After tests were done, doctors told him he was going to be admitted. He was moved from an examination room into the emergency room lobby along with the countless others waiting for care.

“For us to speak up about what my grandfather is going through, it’s not because we wanted special treatment for him as former grand chief and chief of his community,” Jade said. “We know that with that title we are able to speak for other people and that is what is important to us.”

Quebec’s health system is in crisis with a number of emergency rooms reaching 200 per cent capacity. In a statement to APTN, a spokesperson for the Montreal General Hospital acknowledged there are issues.

“The overcrowding in ERs can be explained, among other things, by a record number of patients occupying our beds while waiting to be transferred elsewhere in the network and by a shortage of manpower,” the statement said.

Matthew Mukash said this is a problem.

“I’m very concerned because I don’t seem to be treated with any immediacy, to find a room to be admitted to here in the hospital,” he said through his son.

In December, the Quebec government adopted a sweeping health reform law that centralizes the system’s decision-making powers under Health Quebec.

“I just kept thinking about my grandfather and to be already sent out from his home community to a hospital is already difficult enough and to see the population going through so much is really intense,” Jade said in an interview.

In a statement to APTN, Quebec’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière said his department is following the Mukash’s story closely.

“Since I was informed I have asked my team to contact the minister Dubé’s team [Health Minister Christian Dubé] to obtain more information on the situation.

On Jan. 11, Matthew Mukash was transferred to a hotel near the hospital until a room is available.

“I’ve thought a lot about how native people could and should be treated better, and the Inuit. Especially the sick. It’s difficult to be sick. I have been sick before, and I’ve had surgery before,” Mukash said.

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