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The family of Samwel Uko said the 20-year-old went to the Regina General Hospital twice on the day he died, May 21.
Justin Paul Nyee, Uko’s uncle, said Saskatchewan Health Authority confirmed this information to him on Wednesday during a conference call.
“For the hospital to turn him away, it’s shocking for us and it’s upsetting. The hospital should be a place for him to get help,” Nyee said.
“It shouldn’t have happened. It makes us question the whole system.”
Initial reports had Uko visiting the hospital only once in the morning on the day he was discovered in Wascana Lake in Regina.
In a previous interview with Global News, Uko’s cousin Ginawi Ginawi, said he brought Uko to the hospital’s emergency room that morning. He said he was denied entry due to COVID-19 policies.
“I think the hospital failed him. He was really ill and anytime I would sit with him, I could see that his mind wasn’t there,” Ginawi said.
Regina Police Service confirmed that Uko was also taken to the hospital around 5:30 p.m. that same day.
Uko posted a video to Snapchat shortly after, appearing to cry for help.
Multiple witnesses said they saw Uko enter the lake at about 7:30 p.m. A water rescue team pulled him out shortly after. He was declared dead at 9:18 p.m.
In an e-mail to Global News, police spokesperson Elizabeth Popowich, said an officer responded to a 9-1-1 call for an “assist citizen” in the area of Broadway Avenue and Winnipeg Street.
“The officer located the male, Samwel Uko, who would only say that he wanted to go to the hospital. Mr. Uko voluntarily got into the patrol car and the officer took him into the hospital to seek medical assistance.”
During the conference call with SHA, Nyee said he was told based on audio in the CCTV footage, Uko would not give his name to the nurses. Nyee said he was told on the conference call that’s why Uko was escorted out of the hospital the second time.
“They said ‘no,’ there is a procedure to follow, but it was not followed in his case.”
In a statement, SHA said it cannot respond to specific questions about Uko’s care, as it continues its investigation.
Adding, “we again wish to convey our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of this young man. This situation is heartbreaking for everyone involved.”
Nyee said the family is now trying to get a copy of the CCTV footage, hoping it will provide more answers as to what transpired in the final hours of his life.
“We haven’t seen his last movements, we’ve only heard about it. We just want to see what transpired inside the hospital,” Nyee said.
Uko’s family said he was struggling with mental health issues prior to his death. Uko, of Abbotsford, B.C., was visiting family in Regina at the time.
Uko and his family are originally from South Sudan and moved to Canada in 2005.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, please reach out. Resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.