Saskatchewan NDP calls for inquest into death of Samwel Uko

On the second day of the public inquest for Samwel Uko, jurors heard testimonies from two of Uko's past EA's who seen his pleas for help on social media the day he died. Courtesy / Samwel Uko Facebook

WARNING: Video in this story contains images of sensitive nature which may not be suitable for all viewers. Discretion is advised.

The Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the province for an inquest into the death of Samwel Uko, a 20-year-old B.C. resident, whose body was pulled from Wascana Lake in Regina on May 21.

Uko visited the emergency room at the Regina General Hospital twice on the day he died, seeking help. With government statistics showing an average wait time of about 13 hours for an inpatient bed, Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said the system failed Uko.

“For years, the Sask. Party has failed to address the growing mental health crisis in our province. It’s long past time for action, which is why we’re calling for dedicated mental health emergency rooms to ensure Saskatchewan people in crisis get the care they need,” Meili said.

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According to Uko’s uncle, Justin Nyee, during his first trip to the hospital, Uko was seen by four nurses and one doctor. He said Uko was prescribed depression medication, which he never ended up obtaining.

Nyee said he was also referred to a mental health clinic, who called Uko about 1 p.m. later that day.

Following an hour and half interview, in which Nyee learned Uko had told staff he had thoughts of suicide, Uko’s condition was defined as mild, according to his uncle.

This information Nyee said, came from a conference call with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Nyee added it was encouraging to hear Saskatchewan NDP’s call for an inquest into his nephew’s death, saying SHA told him the hospital failed to follow its protocol when dealing with Uko.

“It’s very important. I’m glad things are changing because we don’t want another Samwel. We don’t want that to happen again to anyone,” Nyee said.

“The hospital dropped the ball when it came to how Samwel was treated.”

A sentiment echoed by the Canadian Mental Health Association in Saskatchewan.

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However, it said it’s more from a lack of resources rather than incompetence.

“(Emergency) should have a psychiatric nurse or a nurse practitioner there so that when someone comes in with a significant, serious mental health issue, they can be looked at right away and not have to sit for hours because that’s very difficult,” said Dave Nelson, a senior program consultant with CMHA, Saskatchewan.

Click to play video: 'Video appears to show cry for help from man later found dead in Wascana Lake in Regina'
Video appears to show cry for help from man later found dead in Wascana Lake in Regina

Suicide isn’t always the result of not getting the proper help at the hospital, but Nelson said it does happen more than it needs to.

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“In this case, it was just all done reasonably transparently and that got a lot of publicity,” Nelson said.

“The fact is, people end up going and not getting the kind of attention they need in a timely [manner] and end up leaving emergency.”
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But it was Uko’s second trip that leaves far too many questions than answers.

Regina Police Service confirmed that Uko was taken to the hospital by officers again around 5:30 p.m. that same day.

Nyee indicated that Uko refused to give his personal information to staff during this second visit. He was later escorted out by security, with no hospital record of his presence.

However, Nyee said SHA did say that there is video evidence showing the ordeal.

“What should of happened is he should of beeen admitted to the inpatient unit where they can assess him and try out various medications or adjust the medications he might have been on,” Nelson said.

“They can keep him there until he’s stabilized and stabilized means someone isn’t psychotic anymore and hearing voices and all these kind of things so that when they do come out, they know they are well again.”

Rebecca Rackow, a consultant at CMHA, Saskatchewan, said it’s time mental health issues are treated the same as physical injuries.

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“The fact that these people have gone to an emergency and accepted the fact that they require help and are looking for somebody, and to be met with nothing is very disheartening,” Rackow said.

“People have to realize that significant mental health issues are as life threatening as people who come in with another crisis.”

SHA is currently reviewing the situation, something Nyee said would take anywhere from three to four weeks.

“Every one of those people who met with him knew he had mental health problems,” Nyee said. “What I told [SHA] was that every nurse that he met was more concerned about filling paperwork and not concerned to look at him as a human.”

“I want to see some action when it comes to mental health. We still don’t have mental health emergency rooms in this province, we still don’t have a commitment for an inquest into the death of Samwel Uko,” Meili said.

“We need to understand why someone like this who took all the right steps, went to the hospital, who spoke to the mental health worker, said what was going on, who reached out by social media, called 911, still ended up losing his life.

“Let’s take it seriously and use this as an opportunity to make sure…this doesn’t happen to others.”

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Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan said the province is sticking to its current process underway.

“We’ve had communications with the chief coroner who has indicated he has specific interest in making sure that everything happens as it should,” Morgan said.

“This is one that has received a fair amount of publicity and as I said in the chamber, all of us want to offer sympathy to the young man’s family. This is a really difficult situation that we will want to make sure we do a careful, methodical job of everything that is required under the legislation and come up with some answers.”

Nyee said he and the family are trying to stay patient throughout this process, as the province continues its review of the case.

“Samwel’s mother is still crying. We try to calm her down and tell her things are going to be okay, but there isn’t much we can do,” Nyee said.

“Myself and the father are trying to think positive, but she’s having a hard time processing everything.”

Nyee said he is considering legal advice depending on the outcome of the review. He has also put in a request to receive video footage of inside the Regina General Hospital during Uko’s second visit.

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Click to play video: 'Video appears to show cry for help from man later found dead in Wascana Lake in Regina'
Video appears to show cry for help from man later found dead in Wascana Lake in Regina
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, 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.

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