When a woman in northern Manitoba suffered a serious pregnancy complication, she was left waiting hours for a medevac flight when quick medical intervention could have saved her baby’s life.
“My boyfriend [saw] his leg come out,” Adrienne Menow told CTVNews. “I didn’t feel like I mattered.”
Menow is sounding the alarm about a lack of emergency medical resources in Indigenous communities like Norway House Cree Nation. With her baby in breech, Menow needed immediate help, but spent hours in labour in a room at the Norway House hospital until a flight could take her north to a better-equipped facility in the city of Thompson, Man.
When she finally arrived at the hospital there, she knew that the son she had named Jasper wouldn’t survive.
“[The] baby was born within four minutes when I got to the hospital,” Menow said. “But he was born stillborn.”
In northern First Nations, where emergency responses can take hours instead of minutes, people have long called for better medical services and facilities.
Not far away in Pimicikamak Cree Nation, a nursing station that is supposed to have 12 primary care nurses each day has only had an average of seven nurses on duty since last summer, according to information obtained by CTV News.
Two new health centres are bow being built in the region. Costing $180 million, the facilities will offer dialysis and palliative care in Norway House, and an emergency room and ambulatory care in Pimicikamak.
“The population we have in the community is 8,000 people, and it’s 2,000 off-reserve,” Pimicikamak Cree Nation Vice Chief Ivan Monias told CTV News. “The facility is almost done. The concern that we have is we have to fill it up with the physicians and nurses and the doctors.”
Indigenous Services Canada says employees from existing facilities will be moved to the new ones, and that final staffing numbers for both new health centres “have yet to be determined.”
The Norway House Health Centre is expected to open this summer. The federal government says there will be prenatal services, but there is no mention of a birthing unit.
Still traumatized by her experience, Menow is skeptical things will improve.
“I just don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” Menow said.