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Nurses who treated Joyce Echaquan said watching video was 'horrific, devastating'

Coroner Géhane Kamel prods staff about racist attitudes and behaviour

A man wears a pendant made of pearls with the face of Joyce Echaquan and the words "Justice for Joyce".

The inquest into Joyce Echaquan's death heard from health-care workers on its fourth day.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Marie-Laure Josselin

RCI

Several nurses who were responsible for caring for Joyce Echaquan during her three days at the Joliette Hospital last September, said watching the live video she posted shortly before her death was a "horrific," "devastating" moment.

Their testimony during the fourth day of the inquiry into the death of the 37-year-old Atikamekw woman brought her partner, Carol Dubé, to tears, as he sat in the audience, taking down copious notes.

The names of the nurses are protected under a publication ban. They described what it was like to leave their patient in good health after their shift and then see Echaquan's live video being shared on Facebook later that night.

One said it  was "épouvantable," horrific.

I was completely devastated, she said. I didn't know what to think.

Another nurse said she was astounded when she recognized a colleague's voice in the video, insulting Echaquan as the she cried for help in Atikamekw.

The nurse broke down in tears a few times during her testimony, saying most of her colleagues don't talk about the incident.

Personally, for me, it's just too painful, she said.

'Problem at Joliette'

Earlier on Tuesday, a nurse said there is a problem at the hospital when it comes to the overall sentiment toward Atikamekw patients who consult for health care.

This is the first time since the beginning of the inquiry into the death of Joyce Echaquan that a staff member has opened up about any sort of discrimination at the hospital.

Coroner Géhane Kamel had to repeatedly ask questions and demand straight answers from witnesses, before a nurse at the Centre hospitalier régional de Lanaudière said there were some stereotypes that circulated among her colleagues.

Kamel said she had trouble sleeping Monday night after hearing five employees deny they'd ever heard of any racist incidents at the hospital.

This must be the only place on the planet where there aren't any offensive comments, at any time, Kamel said sarcastically.

At first, the nurse who was testifying Tuesday morning said she had never heard any racist comments either.

But under Kamel's insistence, the nurse said that, in general, there was a perception at the hospital that most Atikamekw patients have addiction issues and take advantage of the health-care system.

A second nurse, who has worked at the hospital for 12 years, said she too was unaware that a liaison officer was employed by the CISSS to offer translation and support to Atikamekw patients, when Echaquan died on Sept. 28, 2020.

Dr. Jean-Philippe Blais, a gastroenterologist who testified on Monday (new window), also did not know the hospital had hired someone to offer this translation service to his patients.

Echaquan 'asked for restraints'

On Monday and Tuesday, the nursing staff testified that Joyce Echaquan was generally calm and co-operative during her hospital stay.

However, on the evening of Sept. 27, the night before her death, she grew agitated. Her attending nurse said at around 9 p.m., Echaquan asked for medication and restraints.

Dr. Jacques Ramsay, who is co-chairing the inquest, asked for clarification because he said in all his years of medical practice, I've never had a patient ask to be restrained.

The nurse replied she also found it odd, but after consulting with a superior, Echaquan's hands and feet were tied to the bed.

Echaquan didn't resist and eventually calmed down, the nurse said, and the restraints were removed around one hour later.

Last week, Echaquan's relatives said Echaquan had been restrained (new window) during previous hospital visits and disliked it, because she felt vulnerable and was afraid of being molested, or being given too many drugs, her husband, Carol Dubé, testified.

Management at the Joliette Hospital revised its protocol on the use of physical restraints following Echaquan's death, according to the first nurse.

The testimony continues all week at the Trois-Rivières courthouse.

Julia Page (new window) · CBC News 

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