The Watson Lake doctor who last treated Teresa Scheunert says a long wait for an MRI to help diagnose the cause of her back pain contributed to frustrating weeks of treatment with painkillers. 

An inquest is being held in Whitehorse into Scheunert's death. The 47-year-old died in 2012 while being treated for back pain at the Watson Lake Hospital where she worked as a nurse.

Family photo

Teresa Scheunert is shown here with her daughter Crystal Thomas. Scheunert's death at the Watson Lake hospital is the subject of a coroner's inquest. (Scheunert family)

Dr. Tanis Secerbegovic was the only physician on duty in Watson Lake in the months leading up to Schuenert's death. She testified that as a junior doctor, treating a senior nursing colleague wasn't easy.

Jurors heard how, a month before she died, an emotionally distraught Scheunert complained about something dreadfully wrong with her back. A CT scan showed nothing. Drugs were prescribed and Scheunert was told an MRI was needed for better diagnosis.

But the waitlist for MRIs can be months long, and since the injury was work-related, the doctor thought Yukon Workers Compensation could expedite a quicker analysis. 

More drugs were prescribed until severe back pain forced Scheunert into hospital for additional drug treatment.

Secerbegovic testified that over the following two weeks she and Scheunert became so frustrated that the drugs were not working that they decided to give up on WCB, and together came up with a plan. They would boost her painkillers to stabilize her enough to travel, then send Scheunert to Edmonton where she could pay for the MRI she needed out of her own pocket.

Scheunert died the next day.

When questioned about the variety of painkillers prescribed, Secerbegovic said Sheunert was already on a lot of medications when they admitted her to hospital and they needed to figure out which drugs were working and which weren't.

As for delays in getting the MRI, Secerbogovic says that's just a reality in the North.

The inquest continues Wednesday.