MONTREAL — The family of a woman who died in a Montreal-area hospital last month is calling on the coroner's office to investigate after troubling circumstances of her death came to light in a published report.
Candida Macarine, 86, was admitted to Lakeshore General Hospital on the night of Feb. 26 due to respiratory distress, and her family says she died several hours later from cardiac arrest.
But the family now wants further answers after connecting the dots between the timing of their mother's death and a CBC report that an elderly woman was found dead on the floor of an isolation room in the hospital's emergency room on Feb. 27.
Placido Macarine told a virtual news conference Monday the family had come to terms with his mother's death "as everyone's natural destiny." But the day before she was to be laid to rest, the media report came as a blow.
"My emotions suddenly took another turn as I found out that something unbelievable, deplorable happened that could be the cause of her untimely death," he said from Alberta.
The family says the hospital has told them it launched an internal probe but has refused to confirm the family's suspicion that Macarine was the patient found on the floor.
Nearly two weeks after her funeral, the family is no closer to having any real accounting of what happened.
"I wish that the incident was not reported at all, I would be able to move on with my life peacefully today," Placido Macarine said. "But why are they hiding the truth? To cover up and protect the accountable staff or to hide the reputation of the hospital over the human dignity of my mother and our human right to know as her family?"
Gilda Macarine, a Montreal nurse, said at first she accepted her mother's death since she had medical issues that could have led to cardiac arrest. But she feels abandoned by the system and said she has not received a reply to a letter to the head of the health authority on Montreal's West Island.
"What happened to my mom was the result of wilful and gross neglect," she said. "My mom was old, nobody was with her, no family was around her at the time."
In a statement Monday, the regional health authority that oversees the hospital in the Montreal suburb of Pointe Claire expressed its condolences to the family. It said it "take the situation seriously and is currently conducting an internal investigation." The health authority said it remains in contact wit the family but would not comment further in order not to impede its investigation.
Placido Macarine said he feels the family's pleas for answers are being ignored because of their Asian background.
"I just want to know the truth and a sincere public apology for the circumstances," he said. "This would not bring our mom's life back, but it would give us peace."
Fo Niemi, executive director of a Montreal-based civil rights group supporting the family, notes Candida Macarine was Filipina and that there have been several questionable recent incidents in Quebec health-care facilities involving racialized or Indigenous women. Those include the case of Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman who filmed herself being mocked by health-care workers as she lay dying in a Joliette, Que., hospital last September.
"There's nothing worse than not to know exactly what happened or to have the feeling you were not given the right and the truthful information from the outset after your mother's death," Niemi said.
Niemi said the family doesn't feel it can trust the information coming out of the hospital, and that's why the involvement of the coroner's office is needed.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2021.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press