Sask. family frustrated with province after 5-day wait for return of father's body from Ontario

Two sons are mourning the loss of their father, a COVID-19 patient who died after he was transferred to Ontario. They are also upset with how the province handled bringing their dad's body back to Saskatchewan.

Province says there were 'unanticipated delays' in returning Ken Millar's body

Ken Millar was airlifted to Ontario for medical care in October due to Saskatchewan's ICU crunch. (Submitted by Andrew Millar)

Ken Millar loved taking trips and being on airplanes. Sadly, the last flight he took while alive was on a Learjet to Toronto's Humber River Hospital.

Millar was one of five Saskatchewan COVID-19 ICU patients that died after being transferred to Ontario. His sons are sad that their dad wasn't vaccinated against the virus. They're also upset with how the province handled the return of their dad's body.

Millar, 61, died on Nov. 4 after battling COVID-19 for almost a month. He had tested positive in early October and went into the intensive care unit a week later, but had to be airlifted to Ontario because of Saskatchewan's ICU crunch.

A total of 27 Saskatchewan COVID-19 patients were transferred out of the province. 

Ken's sons, Andrew and Matthew Millar, say they encouraged him to get the shot, but that he was hesitant because of misinformation from some friends and social media.

The last time he could speak — before he was intubated — Millar apologized for not getting vaccinated, they said.

His son Andrew, who uses they/them pronouns, fought back tears remembering the last conversation with their father.

"He was struggling even to breathe, but he wanted to tell me that he was so sorry and that he had no idea. And he repeated that over and over again, and then he basically told me he loved me," Andrew said.

Ken Millar, right, is shown with his son, Andrew Millar. (Submitted by Andrew Millar)

'My dad was a person that cared about everybody'

Ken's other son, Matthew, said his father always loved to be around people.

"He would say that his home here was just four walls to sleep in, and he was always going out and seeing people, going for coffee," Matthew said.

Andrew said they learned a lot about being a good person from their father.

"My dad was a person that cared about everybody," Andrew said. "He could barely know somebody, but find out that they were hurting or they were in trouble, and he'd want to go and just either be there for them or want to help them in any way."

Ken Millar's fridge at his home in Martensville, Sask., is covered with photos of friends and family.

Ken Millar and his sons Matthew, right, and Andrew, left, are shown during a trip to British Columbia. (Submitted by Andrew Millar)

Sask. public safety agency apologizes

Millar's sons say it was 5½ days after his death before his body was returned home to Saskatchewan.

Since Ken died of COVID-19, many airlines wouldn't transport him, according to Andrew. At one point, his body wound up in Calgary. 

Andrew said the Saskatchewan government was unprepared and unhelpful.

"It was just very clear that they had no need to bring my dad back. It was just for us. And so they took their time doing it," Andrew said. "In the end, they didn't bring my dad back home. The funeral home in Saskatoon stepped in."

Andrew said the funeral home drove to Calgary and brought Ken's body home at no charge to the family.

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) confirmed in an email to CBC News that there were "unanticipated delays" in bringing back a dead Saskatchewan patient that had been receiving medical care in Ontario. It apologized to the family.

SPSA president Marlo Pritchard repeated the apology at Tuesday's provincial COVID-19 briefing. 

"I send my heartfelt condolences to the family for their losses and for those unanticipated delays and I do apologize for those delays," he said.

The agency said it will review what happened to better support other families, should the need arise.

Getting closure

Matthew and Andrew Millar say they don't want to tell people what to do in terms of vaccination, but that they hope people don't fall for social media misinformation or conspiracy theories.

The brothers held their father's funeral on Saturday, saying it's given them some closure and helped them move forward after a heartbreaking month of chaos and grief.

"It's just really sad that this is how it played out," Matthew said. "It's nothing that we want to have other people experience."


Yasmine Ghania is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan, currently based in Saskatoon.


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