Four days on broken legs
On Nov. 20, Raylene Peter, 10, and Hailey Moses, 9, were driving their father's new snowmobile and were involved in a collision between noon and 1 p.m., said their father George Moses. The impact was to the side of the snowmobile where the girls were resting their legs.
Moses said the pair was taken immediately to the lay dispenser and told their legs were fine and sent home. A lay dispenser works in communities where no doctor or nurse is available, reports on patients' conditions and arranges evacuations.
They stayed in bed until a nurse arrived from Fort Simpson on Nov. 23, and sent them to Yellowknife where the extent of their injuries was finally diagnosed.
"They were complaining for the four days that their legs were sore," said Moses. "There should have been a better reaction from the people that handle the medicine here."
An informal investigation into the medical response has been conducted by Minnie Letcher, director of community programs and services at the Health and Social Services office in Fort Simpson.
"I'm satisfied that all that could be done was done based on the information that was provided," she said.
Part of the problem was that not enough information was given, she said, adding there was never a complaint about pain or a request for pain medication.
"There's a burden of responsibility on the part of the responsible adult if a child is hurt, to bring the information forward," said Letcher. "From the time of the accident there was no indication that further medical attention was required by the two girls."
After the initial visit to the community health worker, their mother Delores Peter was told if problems arose they could call a nurse, said Letcher.
According to records, Peter did call the community health nurse responsible for Wrigley on Monday and explained about the accident. The nurse told Peter that the X-ray machine in Fort Simpson wasn't working, but she would be in the community on Tuesday. There was no indication from Peter the girls needed to be seen earlier, said Letcher.
Due to weather delays the nurse arrived late on Tuesday and spent the day working in the sick clinic. On Wednesday, Peter came to the centre and asked the nurse to come for a home visit, which she did that morning, said Letcher.
A decision was made, in consultation with a doctor, that the girls should be sent to Yellowknife for X-rays, which revealed both had suffered stable fractures. Casts were put on to keep their legs immobile and help them heal, Letcher said.
During the period of freeze-up and break-up a nurse is assigned to Wrigley, but that's based on availability, she said.
"This year it's been hard because of the nurse shortage," she said.
If there was a full complement of five nurses in Fort Simpson there would be a nurse in Wrigley on weekdays, she said.
The shortage of nurses is something communities keep complaining about, said Kevin Menicoche, the MLA for Nahendeh.
"It's scary that this kind of incident can happen in this day in age," he said.
Consistent medical services and regular visits are what the communities want, he added.
He plans to raise the issue during the February sitting of the Legislative Assembly.
"The excuses have to end, people want health services in the communities," said Menicoche.