By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The family of a woman who died during the COVID-19 pandemic is suing the Manitoba government and health agencies alleging that cuts to health care and improper medical decisions contributed to the death of Krystal Mousseau.
Mousseau died on May 25, 2021, after an aborted attempt to fly her from an intensive care unit in Brandon, Man., to a hospital in Ottawa.
Manitoba sent dozens of intensive-care patients to other provinces that spring due to a shortage of beds as COVID-19 cases rose and hospitals struggled to deal with an influx of people needing care.
Mousseau’s mother, Elaine Mousseau, alleges that the government and Shared Health, the provincial body that co-ordinates many health services, failed to provide proper care.
“The government and Shared Health deprived Krystal of her right to life and security of the person … by creating and implementing a critical health-care scheme that needlessly caused or contributed to her death,” reads the statement of claim filed by Elaine Mousseau’s lawyers this week in Court of King’s Bench.
The statement contains allegations that have not been proven in court and none of the defendants have yet filed statements of defence.
Premier Heather Stefanson, asked Thursday about the case during question period, said her heart goes out to the family but she could not comment.
“We will respect the process and refrain from further comment because it is before the courts,” Stefanson said.
Shared Health, Manitoba Justice and Prairie Mountain Health, the regional authority in western Manitoba, also expressed their sympathies and said they could not comment on a court case.
There was no immediate response from Keewatin Air, a private firm that the lawsuit says transported Krystal Mousseau and other patients.
Mousseau was in intensive care with severe COVID-19 pneumonia and died after being taken by ambulance to a waiting airplane that was to take her to Ottawa.
A letter from the regional health authority to the family shortly afterward, which was released publicly, says the transport team did not have a piece of equipment that would let them constantly monitor Mousseau’s blood pressure, so a blood-pressure cuff was used instead. Mousseau was also being given at least one medication at the wrong rate, states the letter.
The lawsuit alleges the Progressive Conservative government ignored warnings in 2019 when it privatized some air ambulance services.
“Several critical care and transport physicians warned the government at the time that its privatization plan for air ambulance services would lead to preventable deaths,” the statement of claim reads.
The government also created a scenario where hospitals couldn’t deal with an influx of patients when it reduced the number of critical care beds in 2019, the lawsuit claims.
Other allegations in the lawsuit include that Shared Health did not have a plan for the anticipated increase in critically ill patient numbers during the pandemic and that Keewatin Air failed to hire workers with the requisite medical training, skill and experience. The statement of claim also alleges staff at the hospital allowed Mousseau to leave while she was in unstable condition and at severe risk.
Manitoba’s chief medical examiner declined to call an inquest into Mousseau’s death and said the manner and cause of death are known.
Mousseau showed high blood pressure and a sudden elevated heart rate shortly before she was put into the ambulance on the way to the airport, the statement of claim alleges.
She went into cardiac arrest while in the ambulance, was sent back to hospital, suffered another cardiac arrest and multiple organ failure before being pronounced dead the next day, the document says.