Shrieking patient shuts down N.L. legislature
A woman who claims that Newfoundland and Labrador authorities have refused to help treat her unbearable pain caused the temporary closure Thursday of the provincial legislature.
Chelsie Coombs, 18, repeatedly shrieked during question period, to the point that Speaker Roger Fitzgerald eventually put the house of assembly into recess.
Coombs, who lay on a stretcher, was asked to leave the public gallery. Minutes later, Premier Kathy Dunderdale left the house to meet her and her family, although the conversation was far from friendly.
"You guys are not helping me and my life is ruined," Coombs cried as Dunderdale attempted to speak with her family.
"How can you be a premier of this province and ignore things. How can you be a mother?" her mother, Rhonda Chancey, said to Dunderdale.
After Dunderdale walked away, Chancey called out, "How can you be a mother? I'm seven months in the hospital with my daughter, night and day, because you wouldn't do anything."
The family claims that Eastern Health has failed Chelsie, who has been described as having a rare neuropathic pain disorder, because it has not been able to provide hydrotherapy services that it said was available. The family had previously taken Chelsie to Nova Scotia for care.
The family also wants Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski to resign for having made public comments to an open-line radio show about Coombs's case, particularly a suggestion that the woman's size is a reason why hydrotherapy is not available to her.
"Ms. Kaminski knows that proper hydrotherapy facilities do not exist and to say that services are not available due to a person's size is insensitive and inaccurate, clearly showing where our system is lacking in terms of accessibility," NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said in a statement Thursday.
Kurtis Coombs said his sister has been treated poorly, and that Kaminski should be pushed out.
"Vickie Kaminski needs to step down. She did wrong and she needs to publicly apologize," he told reporters.
Eastern Health told CBC News Thursday evening that "Ms. Kaminski has offered a letter of apology to the patient. We will not be providing further response at this time."
The family has insisted that government officials have refused to reply to their emails. Coombs's father made this point vociferously to Dunderdale when she approached the family.
Kennedy said the complaint is not true. "I've responded, yes, a lengthy email two days ago," he told reporters. Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones confirmed that she had been copied on government correspondence.
Contacted on Thursday evening, Chancey told CBC News that the family had indeed received an email from Kennedy. Chancey described that message as "nasty" and filled with errors.
"I haven't had a chance to respond as it is very lengthy and has a lot of inaccuracies and falsehoods that I have to correct one by one," she said in an email to CBC News.
'She's had our attention'
Dunderdale said government is committed to helping Coombs.
"I feel compassion for them," Dunderdale told reporters. "The minister has instructed Eastern Health to do whatever is medically necessary to help Ms. Coombs. There's nothing more as a government we can do."
Dunderdale also argued that Thursday's dramatic incident was unnecessary.
"Coombs didn't have to come here to get our attention. She's had our attention and the attention of Eastern Health for some time."
In an email to CBC News, Chancey presented a very different view.
"This government has been so deceptive and aggressive, I wouldn't want to give them any leeway to continue with their foolishness" she wrote.
"We just want our daughter to get the medical services she requires and cut out the bull. Five weeks have been wasted now, we don't need anymore time wasted needlessly while they play their games."
Kurtis Coombs attracted national media attention in 2009 when, at 19, he was briefly declared elected as the mayor of Paradise, a suburban town west of St. John's. He lost after a recount and a subsequent decision to pull a name from a recycling bucket.