The family of a Haisla baby that died is alleging a dispute over an ambulance ride in northern B.C. contributed to the tragedy.
“She has to live with not being able to bring her baby back because nobody helped,” said Dustin Gaucher, uncle of Sarah Morrison of Kitimaat First Nation who delivered a stillborn daughter at the Terrace hospital on Jan. 27.
“It’s very frustrating that we have to live like this in our own traditional territories.”
In a brief conversation, Morrison confirmed her daughter didn’t survive after she saw emergency room doctors in Kitimat and Terrace before giving birth.
“I should be taking care of my baby right now not mourning her,” she said in an interview via Facebook Messenger.
Kitimat General Hospital
Morrison said she went to the Kitimat General Hospital on Jan. 27 after feeling she may go into labour.
Gaucher said Morrison was seen by a doctor who told her the baby could not be delivered there.
“My niece, she was two weeks overdue. She was having erratic contractions where she was worried she was going to have the baby so she went down to the emergency room,” he said in an interview Friday.
Gaucher said the baby’s “heart was strong although a bit elevated” when Morrison was advised to go hospital in Terrace, a city 45 minutes north of Kitimat.
“The doctor told her to go to Terrace, there’s nothing we can do, we won’t deliver a baby here.”
Gaucher said his niece then got into an ambulance that came to an abrupt stop.
“The ambulance took her from the front of Kitimat Hospital to the back end of Kitimat Hospital to talk to the same doctor,” he said.
It’s not clear why the ambulance didn’t take Morrison to Terrace.
A spokesperson for B.C. Emergency Health Services, which oversees ambulance services, confirmed it received a call for service at 6:59 p.m. on Jan. 27 for a maternity patient in front of Kitimat General.
“A paramedic crew arrived five minutes later but did not transport the patient from that location,” spokesperson Sarah Morris said in an email Friday.
“Due to patient privacy concerns we cannot share any other information.”
Gaucher said his family is in shock after what happened to the baby they were anticipating with joy.
He said Morrison’s father was so worried about his daughter and her baby that he drove them and the father of the child to Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace.
He said his sister – who is Morrison’s mother – met them there.
“My sister had to advocate for them. By the time she got there, she got this feeling that they were pushing her (Morrison) out,” he said via phone.
“They said they had three doctors listen to the heartbeat…they noticed the baby still had a 27 (beats per minute) heartbeat,” he said.
“The mother asked, ‘Do anything in your power. I don’t care about my life. I want to save my baby. Cut the baby out and save her.’ They said, ‘She’s dead.’
Morrison gave birth naturally to the infant she said was stillborn.
“They left my niece and my niece’s mother in that room,” Gaucher added, “where my niece tried to perform CPR on her own (child).”
Eryn Collins, a spokesperson for Northern Health Region, expressed sympathy for what the family had suffered.
“I would like to acknowledge this is an unimaginable loss for any family to experience. We want to offer condolences to the family, to their friends and supporters based on what they have shared,” she said Friday.
Collins said she can’t comment on Morrison’s case due to privacy regulations but could share general information.
“I can say that with any situation like what has been described we do conduct a review of the care that’s been provided,” she said via phone.
Collins said the review would include reaching out to the patient and her family for more information.
The family can also file a formal complaint, she added.
Quality of care
“The over-arching goal of that is to determine if there are any opportunities for improvement in the quality of care that’s been provided.”
Collins said the Kitimat hospital has labour and delivery facilities.
“Kitimat General has capacity to do and they currently do perform deliveries and that includes by C-section. But that’s up to a certain level of care.”
She said Mills Memorial in Terrace had greater obstetrical and pediatric specialties, including neo-natal nursery and intensive care-level services.
“Kitimat Hospital does provide a level of care for maternity patients,” Collin said.
“Any decisions to refer and transport a patient to a higher level of care would be made based on a clinical assessment of the condition of the patient and what level of care they might require.”
Gaucher said his family would have more to say at a later date.
“We have a lot of trauma to go through,” he said. “We just need a little bit of time.”
Update: This story was revised on 29/01/21 to correct the driving time between Kitimat and Terrace.