Nfld. & Labrador

'An appalling catalogue of misfortune:' Health minister reacts to child death report

The minister of health and community services, John Haggie, says his department has acted on the recommendations of the Child and Youth Advocate concerning a fatal house fire in Nain.
Health Minister John Haggie reads the report of the Child and Youth Advocate. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of health and community services, John Haggie, says his department has acted on the recommendations of the Child and Youth Advocate concerning a fatal house fire in Nain.

"Basically, it's an appalling catalogue of misfortune," is how Haggie described Carol Chafe's report, which was released Tuesday.

It chronicled how government agencies and police failed the two children and their grandfather, who perished in the 2010 fire.

"The truth sometimes hurts. I accept what she said," Haggie said in an interview Wednesday. 

"These children were put in a position where the system let them down for all the reasons she's enumerated in her report," said Haggie

"There was a lot of opportunity, in hindsight, to have maybe gone in a different direction." 

Two children and their grandfather died in a house fire in Nain in 2010. ((RCMP))

The child advocate's office found that the boy, 4, his three-year-old sister and their older brother had been taken to the Nain clinic 281 times with respiratory problems, as well as skin, ear and eye infections.

But they were not removed from the home, despite poor hygiene, neglect and alcohol abuse.

"There were obviously some staffing issues and since that report, the department has put in place an extra five mental health and addictions counsellors in the four communities on the north coast," said Haggie.

"So we have taken it very seriously and made some concrete steps to remedy the situation."

Antibiotics over-prescribed

Another issue identified in the report is the over use of antibiotics — 101 prescriptions over eight years for the Nain children, according to the child advocate.

"It was totally inappropriate, the volume of antibiotics that they had. It's a problem that's actually endemic in Canada and North America," Haggie said.

"From a health perspective, I think the thing to make sure of is that the service we deliver to the children of the north coast is as good as the service we deliver to the children everywhere, and that should be as good as it can be." 

His department is working with Labrador-Grenfell Health to make sure the new policies are followed through on.

"They have put in place a series of education programs which have been completed. They've committed to doing some more education programs with the regional nurses to make sure that they're up to speed." 

There is also an audit of patient charts, he said, to review documentation, scope of practice and prescribing authority.

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