Cree woman files complaint of racism after treatment at Val d'Or hospital

A woman from the Cree community of Whapmagoostui has filed a formal complaint after being medevaced to the Val d'Or hospital, saying that she was ignored by staff and sent home despite bleeding for ten days.

Natasia Mukash Iserhoff says she was 'treated so poorly for being Cree' after being medevaced to Val d'Or

Natasia Mukash Iserhoff poses with her husband Matthew Iserhoff. Mukash Iserhoff says that she was discriminated against during a recent trip to a hospital in Val d'Or, after being medevaced following complications due to a miscarriage. (submitted by Natasia Mukash Iserhoff)

After ten days of severe pain and bleeding, Natasia Mukash Iserhoff did not expect an ordeal when she was medevaced from her home community of Whapmagoostui, the northernmost Cree community in Quebec, to the Val d'Or hospital on May 3.

Suffering from complications related to a miscarriage, Mukash Iserhoff was told at midnight to leave the hospital and stay at a hotel. After overhearing the nurses talk about her, Mukash Iserhoff felt she was being "treated so poorly for being Cree."

  • Matthew Iserhoff tells his wife's story, in Cree

"I was getting hysterical and crying, and I was in pain waiting for the doctor to see me, which never happened until the next morning," Mukash Iserhoff said in an interview. "I felt so alone."   

She filed a complaint with the Cree Health Board's complaints commission and the Val d'Or hospital.

'I was getting hysterical and crying, and I was in pain waiting for the doctor to see me, which never happened until the next morning,' said Mukash Iserhoff. 'I felt so alone.' (submitted by Natasia Mukash Iserhoff)
In the letter, she describes watching nurses care for other patients, offering them food and asking after their wellbeing, while she was left alone all night after her two-hour flight from Whapmagoostui. 

"I overheard the nurse speaking about me," said Mukash Iserhoff, who, unlike most Cree, speaks fluent French. "She was saying things like: 'She has been bleeding for 10 days? She is not staying here. She is leaving and can come back in the morning.'"

Mukash Iserhoff said the nurse's attitude left her in shock, wondering why she was medevaced directly to Val d'Or if her condition was not urgent.

"Her face seemed to change when I told her I spoke French," said Mukash Iserhoff. "After that, they started telling me it was a misunderstanding."  

Kathy Shecapio, the director of Cree Patient Services, says the department is 'working at making things better for our people.' (Jaime Little/CBC)
Mukash Iserhoff wrote a letter about her treatment to Cree Patient Services, the department of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services responsible for patients flown to Val d'Or, Chibougamau and Montreal for medical appointments. She said she wishes other Cree patients would speak out when they face similar treatment, "because there are countless others I've heard in the past that were never reported, and we need to find a solution."

Kathy Shecapio, the director of Cree Patient Services, says that the department is "working at making things better for our people, and helping those who may face similar situations including racism or other mistreatment."

  • Kathy Shecapio explains the complaints process, in Cree

"We want to train our own staff to see that they have sensitivity training towards our clients who need their support."

Shecapio encouraged Cree patients to contact the Cree Health Board's complaints commission so that complaints can be documented and addressed.

A spokesperson for the Val d'Or hospital declined to comment, citing confidentiality issues.