In the early morning hours of July 1, Janette Sanderson entered the Victoria Hospital emergency room seeking help for a broken ankle.
Instead, the 53-year-old Sanderson left with severe disfiguring burns and wounds she says came from an injection. Now, she’s calling for the Saskatchewan Health Authority to look into what happened and why.
“I just want this to be spoken out (loud), to make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” Sanderson told reporters during a Wednesday press conference in Saskatoon. “The workers, the nurses (and) doctors, they need to be more experienced … so that none of this can happen to anybody else.”
Sanderson was staying in a hotel room in Prince Albert when she tripped and fell on her ankle, breaking it in two places. A nurse asked Sanderson is she was in pain. When Sanderson said yes, the nurse gave her an injection. Sanderson said her arm started swelling up in pain, and she asked the nurse at least three times to stop.
“She said, ‘oh, it will go away here. The pain will go away,’” Sanderson remembered. “This is the worst pain I’ve ever had. (Worse) than my broken ankle.”
Her arm continued to swell while a doctor x-rayed her ankle. Sanderson said the doctor also told her the pain would go away.
Sanderson was eventually transported to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon because staff were concerned she’d had a heart attack. Her arm continued to deteriorate, to the point where her bandages needed to be changed every second day because they were leaking. On July 23, she visited her family doctor, who made arrangements for her to see a plastic surgeon.
On July 25, Sanderson admitted herself into hospital in Melfort until she had surgery on July 29. The scars are still visible on her arms.
Sanderson believes she was incorrectly injected with potassium.
“This has been very hard on her, and us as her family,” said Janelle Kinch, Sanderson’s daughter. “I hope this doesn’t happen to anybody else. My mom did not deserve this pain that she is in right now. It’s going to take a while for her to heal.”
Kinch said Victoria Hospital’s quality of care coordinator contacted them on Aug. 11 to discuss her mother’s care, but they did not receive any notice in July when it was happening.
First Nations leaders, including FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron, also attended Wednesday’s press conference in Saskatoon. Cameron didn’t hold back with his comments, accusing Victoria Hospital staff of torturing Sanderson, and calling for First Nations people to have their own hospital in Prince Albert.
“They tortured this poor lady to the point where she was bearing the pain 24/7,” Cameron said. “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. This is part of the reason the Prince Albert Grand Council has pushed and pressured for their own First Nation hospital, so we can care for our people, with our own protocols and traditions.”
“That nurse in Prince Albert, whoever you are, we’re going to find out,” Cameron added. “You just caused a lot of trouble for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (and) for the Prince Albert Victoria Hospital. Don’t think you got away with it.”
FSIN Vice-Chief David Pratt said the treatment Sanderson received is the latest in a long line of discriminatory practices First Nations people continue to face at Victoria Hospital. He called on the federal government to establish a healthcare ombudsmen’s office, which would oversee cases like this one, and asked the SHA to begin a thorough investigation.
He also commended Sanderson for speaking publicly about her case, providing hope for those who suffered similar treatment.
“Today, she’s doing a good thing for our people and our region, and I believe that something good will come out of such an awful experience,” Pratt said.
Andrew McLetchie, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) vice-president of integrated northern health, released a statement saying they were aware of the family’s concerns, and had begun an investigation. He did not give any further details about what that would include, or when the investigation would be complete.
“The SHA has already been in contact with the patient and family,” the statement read. “An investigation about the quality of care concerns is ongoing. 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.”