Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut September 08, 2017 - 10:00 am

Grieving widow reopens lawsuit against Nunavut health centre

“The nurses believed Victor needed more medical testing that was not available at the Rankin Inlet Heath Centre”

STEVE DUCHARME
Lucy Kaludjak, the widow of the late Victor Kaludjak, is re-opening her lawsuit against the Kivalliq Health Centre, the Commissioner of Nunavut, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, one doctor, and four nurses, following new evidence given at a recent coroner's inquest. She alleges in her lawsuit that medical malpractice played a role in her husband's death on March 21, 2013. (FILE PHOTO)
Lucy Kaludjak, the widow of the late Victor Kaludjak, is re-opening her lawsuit against the Kivalliq Health Centre, the Commissioner of Nunavut, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, one doctor, and four nurses, following new evidence given at a recent coroner's inquest. She alleges in her lawsuit that medical malpractice played a role in her husband's death on March 21, 2013. (FILE PHOTO)

The widow of Victor Kaludjak, who alleges in court that malpractice at the Kivalliq Health Centre played a big part in her husband’s death, is reopening a civil suit against the facility and several of its staff, following new information revealed in evidence given at a coroner’s inquest in July.

Victor Kaludjak, 50, died in a Winnipeg hospital on March 21, 2013, after spending more than 12 hours in the Kivalliq Health Centre in Rankin Inlet under observation before he went into cardiac arrest and was medevaced south.

Kaludjak had checked himself into the facility, complaining to nurses of double vision, muscle weakness and dizziness.

A coroner’s inquest was held in Rankin Inlet for four days between July 31 and Aug. 4, ending with a jury releasing 22 recommendations calling for improved health care procedures and better staff training at community health centres across Nunavut.

But Lucy Kaludjak claims, in an affidavit submitted to the Nunavut Court of Justice on Aug. 25, that during the course of the inquest, “there were many significant revelations about the events leading up to Victor’s death that were not previously known.”

“It was revealed that there was a dispute between the nurses and the doctors about whether Victor should be medevacked prior to his cardiac arrest,” Kaludjak’s affidavit continued.

“The nurses believed Victor needed more medical testing that was not available at the Rankin Inlet Heath Centre.”

In Nunavut’s community health facilities, a doctor or the most senior health care employee on duty makes the final call on whether a patient needs to be medevacked to a more advanced facility.

According to Kaludjak’s affidavit, her husband was diagnosed with “Wernicke’s encephalopathy,” a neurological condition associated with alcoholism, when the body depletes its reserves of vitamin B.

“The circumstances surrounding the treatment and subsequent death of Victor were troublesome to myself and my family,” Kaludjak said.

“I believe there were issues with Victor’s diagnosis, treatment and the delay in him being medevacked to Winnipeg.”

At the Nunavut Court of Justice, Sept. 5, Justice Bonnie Tulloch granted Kaludjak’s request to renew her expired statement of claim filed against the Kivalliq Health Centre, the Commissioner of Nunavut, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, one doctor, and four nurses in January 2015.

The extension will allow Kaludjak to serve the defendants named in her suit and allow her to compile new evidence culled from the coroner inquest’s transcripts.

Kaludjak’s original claim sought $376,000 in damages for lost wages, counselling and the emotional toll on the Kaludjak family stemming from her husband’s death.
According to the circumstances outlined in the verdict of the coroner’s inquest, Kaludjak died from brain damage brought on by cardiac arrest.

Autopsy findings also noted that Kaludjak had a mildly enlarged heart.

But nowhere in the coroner’s verdict, and its subsequent recommendations, is it explicitly noted that nursing staff or doctors believed Kaludjak was intoxicated, or suffering from alcohol-related ailments.

The recommendations instead called for new training opportunities for Nunavut physicians and nurses, including decolonization training and cultural programs for all front-line staff.

Among other recommendations, the coroner’s jury also asked that Nunavut’s Department of Health update its community health nursing standards, policies and guidelines, and procedures manuals.

Any patients with “abnormal vital signs or unexplained neurological symptoms,” that do not improve with intervention, should be sent to a facility with higher levels of monitoring, the jury also recommended.

That’s in contrast to another coroner’s inquest held in Baker Lake immediately prior to Kaludjak’s inquest, which specifically called on the Nunavut RCMP to challenge its assumptions about alcohol-use among Inuit after the death of Paul Kayuryuk.

Kayuryuk, a diabetic, was found unconscious outside the Baker Lake dump by RCMP officers on Oct. 14, 2012, and was assumed drunk and denied immediate health care, which contributed to his death.

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(3) Comments:

#1. Posted by SJW on September 08, 2017

I’m sure that had “decolonization training and cultural programs” none of this would have happened.

#2. Posted by Nunavut on September 08, 2017

So, there is way more alcohol abuse in the south as it is readily available on every corner. Why do they not assume everyone who walks into the ER is drunk then?

#3. Posted by Peter on September 12, 2017

I am glad she is reopening the lawsuit, more people in Nunavut need to do this, too many times people have died due to malpractice up here. Every family up here has a story of going to the health centre only to be told it’s just a cold or something to that effect when really it’s something much more serious.

Maybe with more people suing the health department things will finally change,

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