Manitoba

'Nickel and diming health care is costing lives up north,' family says after man dies en route to appointment

The family of a heart patient who died while on a 10-hour bus ride to his appointment say his death highlights major gaps in the health-care system for northern Manitoba.

Heart patient Abraham Donkey had to take 10-hour bus ride from Thompson, Man., to Winnipeg for follow-up

Abraham Donkey with his five-year-old grandson Kingsley. (Courtesy Amanda Spence)

The family of a heart patient who died while on a 10-hour bus ride to his appointment says his death highlights major gaps in the health-care system for northern Manitoba.

"The system needs to change," said Ramona Neckoway. "The government's approach to nickel and diming health care is costing lives up north."

Neckoway's uncle, Abraham Donkey, was travelling by bus from Thompson, Man., to Winnipeg on Oct. 3 for an appointment at St. Boniface Hospital.

A resident of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, also known as Nelson House, Donkey had stents put in his heart last month.

He was travelling to Winnipeg for a follow-up appointment with his doctor. But he never made it.

The family of Abraham Donkey says he died while taking a long bus ride to a medical appointment in Winnipeg, something they say he never should have had to do. (Google Maps )

His family said he died on board the bus near Fairford, about 220 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

Neckoway said the family is still trying to piece together exactly what happened, but feel he never should have had to travel so far in the first place.

'We need some accountability'

They're upset that he wasn't flown to Winnipeg and that he wasn't given an escort — even though he'd requested one.

"We need some accountability," Neckoway said. "We don't know who decided to say no to those life-saving services that could have potentially saved him. We don't know."

Donkey, 58, boarded a bus to Winnipeg from Thompson on Oct. 3. (Submitted by Ramona Neckoway)

Donkey is far from the first person in the community who has been forced to travel long distances by bus to access health care, says Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Chief Marcel Moody.

"A lot of people are being thrown on the bus when they clearly shouldn't be," he said.

This incident highlights a bigger problem with Manitoba's health care in the north, he said, and the need for better services in Thompson so people don't have to travel so far.

A spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada said they were investigating the case "to determine how service delivery could be improved."

Decisions about travel for First Nations patients, including flights, are made based on recommendations from the nurses or doctors based on the medical condition of the client, and in accordance with federal policies, said Martine Stevens.

"The normal mode of travel is bus, based on the most cost-effective mode of travel, taking the client's medical condition into consideration," Stevens said. 

In an email, Health Minister Cameron Friesen extended his condolences to Donkey's family and also said his department is reviewing the case. 

With files from Jillian Taylor

Man dies while on a 10-hour bus ride to his appointment

CBC News Manitoba

3 years ago
1:45
Heart patient Abraham Donkey had to take 10-hour bus ride from Thompson, Man., to Winnipeg for follow-up 1:45

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