Pressure is building on the B.C. government to investigate patient care at Kitimat General Hospital now that a second sudden death is being attributed to racism.
Naomi Bracken, a Gitxsan woman, alleges her 39-year-old son, Joshua Benson, died after being told to leave the small hospital in northern B.C. after complaining of chest pains on Aug. 31, 2020.
“He was at the hospital for about eight hours,” Bracken wrote in a letter to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix. “He was told they could find nothing and were unable to help him and asked him to leave.”
Bracken said she sent the letter Feb. 4 after learning about the recent case of pregnant Sarah Morrison of Kitamaat First Nation.
The Haisla woman delivered a stillborn daughter on Jan. 28 after receiving what she described as racist treatment from medical staff at both the Kitimat and Terrace hospitals.
Bracken said Dix’s staff were in contact with her Tuesday to arrange a meeting. A spokesperson for Dix confirmed to APTN News the letter was received.
“With what happened with Kitimat hospital and the woman with her little baby, I might as well get in (my complaint) at the same time,” Bracken said in an interview with APTN. “Like there’s power in numbers.”
The death of Morrison’s baby has triggered a dual review of the care delivered at Kitimat and Terrace hospitals and the ambulance service, which, for unknown reasons, didn’t provide transportation for the expectant mother to Terrace.
No such review has been initiated in Benson’s death, but that’s what his mother said Dix should do.
According to her letter, Benson, who worked as a welder in Kitimat, was experiencing “severe chest pains” at work.
“His supervisor, using Josh’s truck drove him directly to the Kitimat General Hospital. Because of COVID restrictions he was unable to accompany him inside or wait with him. Josh called me, in Terrace, and a friend drove me to Kitimat. Even I was not able to be with him so I waited at his Supervisor’s house,” Bracken said in the letter.
“He was at the hospital for about 8 hours, he was told they could find nothing and were unable to help him and asked him to leave,” she added in the letter.
Bracken said she was on the phone with her son after he left the hospital and walked back to his truck.
“They made him walk up that big hill with all those drugs in him,” she said.
According to the letter to Dix, Bracken said: “He was walking to his truck, I was speaking to him on the phone as he walked – he was in so much pain he couldn’t talk. He died halfway there. The RCMP found him on the side of the road.”
Police officers located and took him back to the hospital, according to Bracken.
“I want change,” the grieving mother told APTN. “I don’t want anybody else to die because of what’s happening.”
Bracken said she was told her son died of “aortic dissection with a rupture.”
The B.C. Coroner’s Service is investigating.
Bracken said she was still waiting to get her son’s medical records from the hospital but was able to get his phone.
She said she wound up burying her son and her elderly mother on the same day.
“She was very close to my son; when she heard what happened to my son she just went,” Bracken said.
“A week, 10 days after he passed away, she passed away too.”
Eryn Collins, a spokesperson for the Northern Health district that oversees Kitimat hospital, didn’t comment on the allegation that racism was involved in Benson’s case but said her organization was aware of Bracken’s letter to Dix although it hadn’t seen it.
She said she didn’t know how many patient care reviews had been undertaken at Kitimat hospital.
Families can also file formal complaints about patient care, she added.
Bracken said she was initially going to file a complaint with the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson and B.C.’ Office of the Human Rights Commission but decided to go straight to Dix instead.