Saskatchewan health authority investigating incident Cree woman describes as ‘worst pain I ever had’

“My mom did not deserve this pain that she is in right now.”

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations wants answers after an elder says she suffered burns to her arm at a Saskatchewan hospital.

Janette Sanderson said she went to the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert on June 30 after tripping in her hotel washroom and injuring her ankle.

While in emergency, she said, a nurse injected her with a needle that caused her arm to start swelling.

“It started burning,” Sanderson, 53, of the James Smith Cree Nation said at a news conference in Saskatoon on Wednesday.

She recalled asking the nurse what was in the needle and why it was being injected. Sanderson believes hearing the nurse telling her it was potassium, which kept burning.

“She said, ‘It’ll go away’… I started crying,” Sanderson said. “I said, ‘It’s not going away.’

“I told her to stop three or four times and she didn’t listen.”

The federation, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, said what happened to Sanderson is an example of discrimination Indigenous people face in health care.

“What this lady went through is torture,” said Chief Bobby Cameron.

“We will do all we can as a federation — legally, politically, technically — to right the wrong and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Sanderson’s family said the elder, who is also on dialysis, was transferred from Prince Albert to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon for concerns about her heart.

Janel Kinch said her mother stayed for about two weeks and continued to suffer unbearable pain in her arm.

“It was getting more swollen and more red,” Kinch said.

Her family said when Sanderson was discharged from hospital, staff told her the arm would heal, but it didn’t. In fact, Kinch said, it got worse.

She said home-care workers had to change the dressings on her mother’s arm, but it leaked, so Sanderson checked herself into a hospital in Melfort, Sask., to control the pain.

She said a doctor told her the wounds on her arm were from a potassium burn. At the end of July, weeks after first getting the injection, Sanderson underwent plastic surgery, which was successful, Kinch said.

Sanderson is still recovering.

“My mom did not deserve this pain that she is in right now.”

Vice Chief David Pratt also wants the federal government to support the FSIN in developing an ombudsman office to do an investigation.

The federation is also supporting the Prince Albert Grand Council to open its own hospital.

“We’re pushing for the grand council as well for their hospital if the federal government is serious about reconciliation, because we need to set up our own system because the current system is failing our people,” Pratt said.

Health Minister Jim Reiter said whenever he hears of an issue about patient care he’s concerned.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said it’s aware of the case and has been in touch with the patient and her family.

“An investigation about the quality of care concerns is ongoing,” reads a statement from Andrew McLetchie, the authority’s vice-president of Integrated Northern Health.

“We are not able to provide any further details about a specific patient’s personal health information. As in any situation where there may have been concerns with the quality of care provided, the SHA starts a review process to determine what may have occurred.”

With files from Priscilla Wolf.