Only a select few will know the results of a review arising from what happened at Kitimat General Hospital the night of Jan. 27, 2020 when a pregnant Sarah Morrison arrived seeking medical assistance.
The Northern Health Authority is conducting the review, which ended in Morrison’s daughter being stillborn at Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, but provincial legislation prohibits Northern Health — and anyone else participating in the review, including family members — from releasing any information as to what has been discovered or what subsequent actions, if any were considered necessary, were taken.
“The investigation involves discussion with the individuals involved in providing the care, review of relevant documents including the chart and policy, the perspective of the patient and family, and may include the perspectives of external agencies (including other health authorities), where relevant,” explained Northern Health’s Eryn Collins.
“Results/recommendations from such reviews are prohibited from release under legislation, and cannot be made available to the public.”
Beginning the evening of Jan. 27 and extending into the next days, family members of Morrison, a Haisla, did extensive social media postings, photos and videos, saying she was not provided proper care and that Kitimat General was racist in its approach to indigenous people.
Morrison and the baby’s father, Ronald Luft, have filed a civil suit.
Northern Health’s two senior officials in the northwest, chief operating officer Ciro Panessa and medical director, Dr. Jaco Fourie, are leading the review. The health authority is retaining Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who conducted a 2020 review into allegations of racism in health care services and facilities, to provide advice as to how the review should be conducted.
The ban on releasing information comes through Section 51 of the BC Evidence Act which acts as a shield for disclosure.
“As well, documents prepared for a quality review committee or by the review committee for the hospital’s board cannot be admitted into evidence in civil proceedings, nor can witnesses or members of the committee give evidence about the review,” adds information from the Provincial Health Services Authority, the agency which guides health care services.
The ban is “intended to promote full, open and candid discussions amongst health care officials with the goal of ensuring opportunities for improving care will be discovered,” the authority continues.
A review does not stop health care professionals from participating in reviews conducted by other agencies nor does it shield people from potential civil suits.
Provincial health ministry official Stephen May said any review has “to put the privacy and safety of the patient first and foremost,” adding that the focus is “to investigate what took place in patients’ experience and find opportunities to improve care for patients and families.”
As how to the public can be assured that statements made about patient care are investigated and changes made as needed, May said the ministry is “accountable to the public on action we’re taking to address systemic racism and ensure that our health care system is a safe space for people in B.C.”
He said the province will follow up on Turpel-Lafond’s report called “In Plain Sight”.
Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross said he’s ready to offer his services to bridge the gap between the family and the community and the hospital although he, like others, will never know the results of the review.
“I don’t know the family and I don’t know the circumstances but I’d like to help as much as I can,” he said.