The mother of a baby who has been recovering from double pneumonia in a Winnipeg hospital for a week says she worries about having to go back to the northern First Nation where they live.


Julie Castel was on a ventilator for about a week after she and her mother were flown out of the Pukatawagan First Nation late last month. (Family photo)

Freedom Castel's seven-month-old daughter, Julie, has been in Winnipeg since she was flown out of the Pukatawagan First Nation with respiratory problems on Nov. 26.

Castel said she had initially taken her child to the First Nation's nursing station numerous times, only to be sent home with painkillers.

"They didn't know what it was, they were just guessing. I don't know. I lost my trust in the nurses back home," Castel told CBC News on Tuesday.

"I don't know if I'll feel safe now [about] going back home."

It was only after the family demanded that Julie be medevaced that the baby was flown to Winnipeg, where she was seen by doctors before being admitted to hospital on Nov. 29, according to her mother.

Baby's condition improves

Castel said after a week of being on a ventilator in a pediatric intensive care unit, Julie's condition is now improving.

With her daughter feeling better, Castel said she wonders what could happen if Julie falls ill again in Pukatawagan, a remote First Nation community located more than 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

The mother said she is upset that family members had to urge the nursing station to call a doctor in Winnipeg, who then had to determine if Julie was ill enough to be medevaced out of the community.

"When they're not sure of something … they get advice from a doctor over the phone, and the doctor doesn't even see the child in the room," she said.

Health Canada says there is a protocol physicians must follow in deciding whether a person should be flown to another community for hospital care.

About $21 million was spent in Manitoba last year for medical evacuation trips.

Last week, another family from Pukatawagan called for changes to health care in their community after their 12-year-old granddaughter, Britney Pruden, died from complications from pneumonia.

A grieving couple from another northern Manitoba First Nation, Gods Lake Narrows, also went public following the death of their two-month-old daughter, Drianna Ross.

As was the case with Julie Castel, both Britney and Drianna had been taken to their local nursing stations repeatedly, only to be sent home with painkillers, according to family members.