Nunavut woman claims mistreatment in Ottawa hospital

An Inuk woman from Pangnirtung says she was mistreated by nurses at the Civic Campus of Ottawa Hospital who refused to give her water and change her diaper.

Toward the end of her two-week stay, Qaqasiq said nurses on the night shift also refused to change her diaper

Leesee Qaqasiq poses with a photo of herself as a child at her home in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. Qaqasiq said during an extended stay at an Ottawa hospital, nursing staff denied her water and refused to change her diaper. (Leesee Qaqasiq/Facebook)

An Inuk woman from Pangnirtung, Nunavut, says she was mistreated by nurses at a hospital in Ottawa, who refused to give her water and change her diaper.

Leesee Qaqasiq told CBC News she was medevaced to the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital after fracturing her pelvis in mid-October.

Qaqasiq said doctors told her she likely sustained the injury from landing too hard on her wheelchair. The wheelchair was salvaged at the dump and she said that she often has to chase after it when she's not sitting in it because it has no brakes.

For treatment, Qaqasiq was flown to Ottawa. It's a common practice for Nunavummiut requiring medical care not available in the territory to be flown to facilities in southern Canada. 

"I had to rely on the nurses to change me, to change my diapers, and they were so tired of doing it that they said I can just pee in them," Qaqasiq said from her home on Baffin Island.

By Nov. 2, toward the end of her two-week stay, Qaqasiq said nurses on the night shift refused to change her diaper and denied her water.

"There was one [nurse] that said I peed too much and denied me water because I was going to pee too much," she said. 

"I wasn't given water all night long until I called 911 in desperation," she said. "I thought I was going to die of thirst." 

Qaqasiq said EMS arrived at her hospital room and delivered bottles of water.

The city of Ottawa denies Qaqasiq's allegation. In an email to CBC news on Tuesday, a city of Ottawa media relations project manager stated, "Ottawa Paramedic Service has confirmed that no call was received, and that paramedics did not respond to this location / this patient during the time range specified."

Ottawa hospital reviewing allegations

The Ottawa Hospital denied CBC's interview request. 

In a written statement, media relations officer Michaela Schreiter said the hospital's patient relations department is "reviewing the situation to ensure all concerns are addressed."

"The hospital sincerely apologizes for any negative experiences that do not align with [its] values," Schreiter said. 

Qaqasiq said that throughout her two-week stay, nurses complained regularly about the tasks involved in her care. 

"I felt guilty for making them work," she said.  

A written statement from the media relations officer at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital said they were 'reviewing the situation to ensure all concerns are addressed.' (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Qaqasiq's medical escort — her son — was not allowed to enter the hospital because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

"What I'm most afraid of is elders who cannot speak English — how will they be treated?" Qaqasiq said. "They will have no way of knowing what to do, where to go, who to talk to."

Qaqasiq, who attended residential school as a child, believes she was mistreated because she's Inuk. 

"We're done. Like, we're not going to be treated like that anymore, anywhere," Qaqasiq said. 


  • This article has been edited to introduce a response from the city of Ottawa regarding Qaqasiq's allegations, and to more clearly attribute Qaqasiq's allegations.
    Nov 17, 2020 4:11 PM CT