NDP Calls for Inquest into Death of Northern Patient

October 17, 2018

Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew and MLA Tom Lindsey are calling for an inquest into the death of a northern man who was travelling from Thompson to Winnipeg for a medical appointment.

Abraham Donkey recently had heart surgery and was travelling to St. Boniface Hospital for a follow up appointment. Both Manitoba Health and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of the federal government did not offer to pay for his flight to Winnipeg and refused to cover expenses for a family escort, despite being told his first language was not English and he was hard of hearing.

Kinew reached out to the family on Tuesday night to express condolences and hear their concerns. “This was a tragic story that sheds light on the difficulties northern Manitobans face accessing health care,” he said. “The situation surrounding Mr. Donkey’s death raises serious questions about the services he was receiving from Indigenous Services Canada and Manitoba’s Northern Patient Transport Program. We believe a full inquest under the Fatality Inquiries Act is necessary in order to understand what happened and what we can do to ensure this does not happen again.”

Last spring the Pallister government changed a subsidy that offered affordable airfare to the escorts of northern Manitoba patients who fly to Winnipeg for medical appointments. Recently, the Manitoba NDP has received reports from patients facing increased fees, confusion and issues with accessing travel subsidies.

“The provincial Northern Patient Transport program was created to give northern Manitobans like Mr. Donkey some sort of equitable access to essential health care services in Winnipeg, but Pallister’s cuts have made it harder to access the care they need.” said Tom Lindsey. “We are asking the Chief Medical Examiner to call for an inquest into this case and the provincial government to review services for northern patients travelling for health care.”

Kinew noted that patients will soon face more obstacles as Greyhound officially ceases operations on dozens of northern routes at the end of this month. Some routes may be serviced by private charter bus companies, but northern Manitobans living in isolated communities will be left without options. So far it is unclear if these private companies will have agreements with the Northern Regional Health Authority to provide subsidized transport for patients.

Kinew is visiting Thompson and Flin Flon this week and intends to discuss northern health care with community members.

“The family of Mr. Donkey deserves answers. Northern Manitobans are struggling to access the quality health care we take for granted in Winnipeg, and Pallister must do more to close the gap,” said Kinew. “Every Manitoban deserves equitable access to health care.”