Inquest to probe patient's death after push by another Selkirk Mental Health Centre patient
'People need to know what happened and why that happened in the hospital,' mom of Ali Al Taki's kids says
The former partner of a man who died after getting pushed by another patient at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre hopes the inquest into his death gives her the answers she's been seeking.
Ali Al Taki, 42, a forensics ward inpatient, was pushed by another patient, fell backwards and hit his head on April 18, 2016, a news release from the Manitoba government says. He died at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg on June 24, 2016.
"I was shocked. I was angry, because that shouldn't have happened and he's gone now, like, we lost time with him," said Phoebe Paddy, mother of Al Taki's two daughters, now 13 and 14.
"It's still hard. Like it just seems like it's a nightmare still. I'd like to know what happened."
Manitoba's chief medical examiner called the inquest in May; its date will be set by the provincial court's chief judge.
The month before the incident, Al Taki was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a rare, degenerative brain disease that affects behaviour, memory and a person's ability to do simple tasks. He was transferred from Health Sciences Centre to the mental health centre in Selkirk, Man., a small city about 35 kilometres north of Winnipeg, on Feb. 2, 2016.
Paddy was told the altercation happened in the courtyard over a cigarette.
"I just think there should've been more supervision, and I don't like the way that hospital handled things," she said.
She found out about Al Taki's injury two days after it happened from staff at Health Sciences Centre. Because Al Taki was a ward of the public trustee, staff at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre did not notify her, she said.
"Nobody told me anything. I was left in the dark all the time with them," she said.
"The staff at the Health Sciences Centre were the ones to always inform me, to keep me included in everything."
She eventually began to learn details from Selkirk Mental Healtch Centre workers who sat with Al Taki while he was on life support at the hospital.
One worker told her he saw Al Taki the day he was pushed.
"He noticed Ali laying on the ground, so he went to the courtyard and he saw the other patient walking around, and he tried to ask Ali, 'Are you OK?' and Ali seemed really unresponsive and he said his eyes kept rolling back," she said.
"So he said he picked up Ali, carried him to the nursing station."
From there, Al Taki was taken to Selkirk and District General Hospital, then to Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg where he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury that affected his ability to breathe, Paddy said.
He died just over two months later of lung complications and multiple infections, she said.
As hard as it was on her, "it was harder to tell my daughters, to tell them that their dad was gone."
RCMP told her they arrested the other patient but could not charge him because as an inpatient of the psychiatric facility, he was not criminally responsible.
Al Taki immigrated to Canada from Iraq as a teenager fleeing the Gulf War. He had been living and working as a cook in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia after fleeing Iraq to avoid serving in the army under Saddam Hussein, Paddy said.
They met at a restaurant in Winnipeg in 2002.
"He was pretty funny. He liked to make people laugh; that was his thing. He had a ton of friends," she said.
When she gave birth to their girls, it was a "happy time," and Al Taki was a good father as they grew up, Paddy said. He enjoyed working as a cook in Greek restaurants across the city because "they were very accepting of him; they liked his cooking skills," she said.
But Al Taki missed his family, who were all in Iraq. Around 2014, Al Taki found out his brothers were victims of a car bomb, she said; one was killed, the other lost his leg.
"He really went downhill fast. He wasn't the same person anymore. I didn't know him anymore. My kids didn't know him anymore. He was an entirely different person," Paddy said.
She sought a protection order because he wouldn't leave them alone. He was eventually arrested after breaching the protection order several times, she said.
He was initially incarcerated pending his court date, she said, but then jail staff noticed he couldn't talk anymore and was dragging his feet when walking, prompting his transfer to Health Sciences Centre.
Paddy removed the protection order so the psychiatrist could tell her the "heartbreaking" diagnosis on Feb. 1, 2016. Al Taki was transferred to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre the next day.
"They gave us the news that he had frontotemporal dementia and he would pass away from that, and they said they weren't sure how much time he had," she said.
She never expected it would be so short.
A spokesperson for the province refused a request for information, saying "the responsibility to protect personal health information continues even following the death of the individual" and the inquest would be "the public forum" for more information on Al Taki's death.
An inquest is mandatory under the Fatality Inquiries Act if a patient admitted involuntarily dies as a result of a violent act.
Inquests do not assign blame, but examine the circumstances, and may result in recommendations to help prevent future deaths.
A judge will determine who can participate in the process at a standing hearing that starts at 9 a.m. on Aug. 24.
Paddy hopes to be one of those people, and that some good comes of her family's tragedy.
"Ali doesn't have anybody. He deserves this. People need to know what happened and why that happened in the hospital, so it doesn't happen to any other patients."