Saskatchewan Health Authority Apologizes to the Family and Friends of Samwel Uko
Statement of Behalf of Scott Livingstone, CEO
“SHA officials have met with members of the Uko family and formally apologized for the events that transpired in our facilities prior to the passing of Samwel Uko on May 21, 2020.
Our sincerest condolences go out to everyone affected by Samwel’s passing, and most especially his parents and extended family. Samwel was a vibrant young man who sought help from us and we failed to provide him the timely assistance he needed. There are no words that can bring Samwel back, but I do want the public to know that we recognize how deeply we failed him.
As an organization, we are committed to enhance access to mental health supports across Saskatchewan. Samwel’s tragic experience with our health system will strengthen our resolve to advance this work.
We thank Samwel’s family for their participation in our review of his care and for accepting our formal apology.”
In the early evening of May 21, 2020, Samwel Uko sought help from the Emergency Department at Regina General Hospital and was improperly denied care.
Facts about the situation point to multiple factors influencing this tragic outcome rather than a single cause, including but not limited to:
Conflicting information on the patient’s identity;
Process for registration of an unidentified patient was not utilized;
Information sharing practices with key partner organizations;
Process around removal of patients/visitors.
Additional areas for improvement were also identified around adaptation of COVID-19 screening practices, better coordination of mental health supports in the Emergency Department and additional staff awareness of Stop the Line protocols aimed at avoiding potential harm. The Stop the Line protocol is part of the SHA’s Safety Alert System aimed at empowering health care workers to “stop the line” as soon as a problem is identified, with the goal of preventing the problem from causing patient or staff harm.
As part of its commitment to the family in this situation, the SHA will also be looking for opportunities to share the learnings from this situation nationally with other health care providers in Canada.
Details the SHA can disclose in this situation are limited by provincial legislation pertaining to Critical Incident reviews and the Health Information Protection Act. The specific details being provided about these events are being shared with the consent of his family.
The SHA will also be fully cooperating with the upcoming inquest into this case by the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service and implementing any additional quality improvement measures that are identified during that process.
Quality Improvement Plan:
A quality improvement plan is already being put in place aimed at preventing the recurrence of this situation, with initiatives in various stages of implementation. Key highlights are included below:
1. Improve registration and triage processes:
- Ensure staff have clarity and supports to accurately identify the location of personal health information on different identity cards;
- Restructure the Unidentified Registration protocol to avoid delays in care for the patient;
- Restructure scope of the Unidentified Registration protocol to include clear guidance on how to handle situations of conflicting identity or other challenges confirming identity.
2. Adapt COVID-19 screening and visitation protocols:
- Update COVID screening protocols to enable patients to have an accompanying support person to assist them in their care;
- Incorporate COVID screening process in the Triage process, not as a separate step in the process of care.
3. Improve information sharing with key partner organizations:
- Create clear instructions for key external stakeholders about handoffs when bringing patients to the Emergency Department;
- Encourage key external stakeholders to better utilize existing technology supports for information sharing to facilitate more effective hand offs for those who are presenting to the Emergency Department with potential mental health issues;
- Orient key external stakeholders to the flow of care in the Emergency Department to ensure better awareness of the importance of effective hand offs between different service providers.
4. Address gaps in process for removing someone from an SHA facility
- Ensure non-clinical staff speak to a physician prior to removing a patient from the Emergency Department
5. Improve coordination of mental health supports within the Emergency Department
- Ensure patients get timely access to the Emergency Psychiatric Nurse where required.
6. Strengthen culture of safety and empower staff to ‘Stop the Line’
- Ensure staff review the Stop the Line Protocol yearly and are empowered to ‘Stop the Line’ if something doesn’t seem right.
System-Wide Actions on Mental Health and Cultural Responsiveness:
Samwel’s story goes beyond the direct details of his interaction with our health system on May 21, 2020. Consideration must be given to the larger context of Samwel’s racial background and general struggles faced by individuals like Samwel trying to access appropriate mental health supports.
In addition to the specific process improvements identified by the SHA in follow up to the situation surrounding the passing of Samwel, the SHA is committed to strengthening its mental health supports across Saskatchewan and improving the cultural responsiveness of our services. This is part of the response to the situation because it speaks to the overall health system that needs to improve to better support individuals facing challenges similar to Samwel.
The focus of these efforts will be on implementing key improvements to mental health supports as a result of new funding for mental health and addictions from the Province of Saskatchewan for 2020-21. A significant amount of this funding directly supports improved services in emergency departments for those presenting with mental health and addictions concerns. These initiatives will strengthen SHA’s ability to advance its Connected Care Strategy, which is aimed at supporting more seamless coordination of care across Saskatchewan, including strengthening our mental health supports in our emergency departments. The facts around Samwel’s situation underline the significant need for this work to be prioritized and moved forward.
In terms of cultural responsiveness, the SHA is committed to have a workforce that is representative of all demographics that can better support our diverse population. In addition, measures are already in place that we anticipate will start to better position the SHA to respond to the diverse needs of our population, including compulsory cultural responsiveness training as part of employee orientation. The Saskatchewan Health Authority strongly believes that diversity is part of our strength, but the organization will be sharing Samwel’s story to underline the need to continue to make improvements in this area.
The themes from this situation will be carried forward to leaders in our system to determine what other improvements can be made to better respond to the events that transpired prior to Samwel’s passing.