Nisga'a woman plans to sue Prince George hospital, alleges racism and mistreatment

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Photo source: Northern Health

A Nisga’a woman from Greenville is planning to file litigation against Northern Health alleging the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia in Prince George mismanaged the delivery of her baby, who began to experience brain bleeds shortly after his birth.

Kristy White and her husband arrived at the hospital on June 17th, 2020 for the delivery of their son Wesley. Since the baby was in a sideways position, doctors decided to induce his birth with Oxytocin once he shifted slightly downward.

But the next day, White got a different nurse, who she says treated her rudely and made disrespectful comments about First Nations people when she and her husband started talking about moose meat. 

“She was just very judgmental. And when we tried to explain it to her, she wrinkled her nose and shook her head. She was being so insensitive to our culture.”

White says the nurse went against her doctors’ orders and refused to increase the Oxytocin levels – she sensed they were having a dispute. As a result, White says her son’s birth wasn’t progressing. Eventually, her husband retrieved her doctor, who – along with the head doctor – got the nurse to increase the medication. 

“They came in and that's when they told her, ‘increase that medication.’ She tried to even argue with the head doctor, and she was like, ‘do you want me to do it?’ And the nurse was like, ‘no, fine, I'll do it’. And she threw her hands – she glared at me and whipped around the IV thing and increased it.”

At this point, White had been in labour for 24 hours. Because of her exhaustion, White says she couldn’t do a regular birth – and despite her pleas for one, doctors didn’t want to do a C-section. Instead, they performed a vacuum-assisted delivery.

Later on, White realized her son’s physical and cognitive development were moving along slowly. She eventually received heartbreaking news.

“Last week, we found out from the neurologists that due to the C-Vac machines and prolonged labor, Wesley has brain bleed and brain damage.”

White says Wesley has difficulty holding himself upright and he struggles to speak.

“[The neurologist] thinks that it could have pulled out his brain stems causing the brain bleed because he's had an MRI – his first MRI – and it shows those brain bleeds are there. She said they're old, and they're from birth. And she thinks that they're from the C-Vac machine. She was the one that told me this, I didn't ask her.”

White says that if the nurse increased her oxytocin levels, or if the doctor performed a C-section, Wesley’s injuries could have been avoided. And she attributes the treatment she received from the nurse – and the hospital in general – to racism. 

“We are holding the nurse, the nurses and the doctors and the hospital liable for Wesley.”

E-mails between White and Northern Health show that White filed a complaint to Northern Health’s Patient Care Quality Office. They investigated and concluded the nurse’s actions were not motivated by racism. However, they did acknowledge a disagreement between a nurse and a doctor had taken place.

In an e-mailed statement, Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins said the health authority can't speak about the specifics of any individual patient experience due to privacy reasons, but she did confirm that a quality of care complaint was investigated.

“Northern Health strives to support a health care system that is culturally safe for Indigenous people,” she said. 
“We know that the vast majority of our staff and care providers share this commitment, and provide culturally safe care every day – and we also know there is more work to be done.”

White says she is currently working with a lawyer who is helping her with the litigation process. She is waiting to receive medical records from BC Children's Hospital and planning to take Wesley in for another MRI in August before submitting her litigation.