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In June, the province announced it would launch an inquest into Uko’s death, but failed to provide a date for when that would happen.
Uko’s uncle Justin Nyee, who has been representing the family since his nephew’s death, said he spoke with the coroner last week and was told an inquest wouldn’t be launched for about another year due to other cases ahead of Uko’s.
“For us, as a family, it’s taking a long time. We need to know exactly what happened, how it happened and how the hospital is planning to deal with all of this,” Nyee said.
“For us to wait until next year, and you never know it might get pushed again… it’s just dragging on and on for the family. We really need answers and we need them now.”
On Monday, the province said due to COVID-19, five other inquests were postponed and re-scheduled for the fall and early winter.
“Coroners Service is scheduling inquests in the order that the death investigations were concluded. They maintain that order in fairness to all families waiting for inquests.”
Nyee said he is also looking for an apology from Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter.
“He’s the guy on the top. So, if anything happens in your house and you are the top guy, you’re the one who has to take responsibility. You don’t push it to somebody below you to take care of it,” Nyee said.
“I would accept an apology from him, if he has the guts to come out and do it.
“As his mother was saying, they (the province) just don’t care who Samwel was. If they cared, and saw him as a person, as a human being, there would be some steps taken from them.”
Rieter, who is responsible for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said he felt the province made it clear to Uko’s family that it was sorry.
“The health authority met with the parents of Samwel Uko some weeks ago to get a public apology. I released a statement that same day,” said Jim Reiter, Saskatchewan’s health minister.
“I’m happy to reiterate an apology. The system processes broke down and the system failed Mr. Uko. It’s important that we take every action we can so that those kind of things don’t happen again.”
As for a direct, personal apology from Reiter to the family, he said he has no problem doing it.
“I’d certainly be open to that,” Reiter said.
“I felt it was important at the start, that it not just be a phone call, so some of the senior officials from the Saskatchewan Health Authority…flew to British Columbia and offered the apology in person.”
Separate from the provincial inquest, the Saskatchewan Health Authority finished its review into Uko’s death in July, recognizing it “failed” the young man.
Uko visited the Regina General Hospital twice the day he died — once in the morning and again just hours before taking his life in Wascana Lake.
In its four-page review, the SHA admitted that procedure wasn’t followed during his second visit, especially when it came to its registration process dealing with unidentified patients, sharing proper information practices with key partner organizations, and the removal of patients/visitors.
Uko, who had been struggling with mental health issues, was removed from the hospital by four security guards after failing to provide his name to staff.
“I am deeply sorry. I am sorry to the parents who loved him, I’m sorry to the family who supported him and nurtured him and watched him grow into the young leader that he was,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said on July 23.
“As an organization, we failed Samwel, not because of one specific thing that happened, but because of multiple factors that converged and resulted in denying him care.”
Nyee provided security footage to Global News of inside the hospital during Uko’s second visit which showed him begging for help.
“Leave me alone… I have mental issues,” Uko shouted out as he was aggressively escorted out of the hospital on May 21, shown in the security video.
The SHA’s review led to a number of changes, which included improvements to its registration and triage process along with its COVID-19 screening and visitation protocols.
Like Nyee, the Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the government to provide a date for the inquest and demanding the province “establish a public inquiry to examine Saskatchewan’s high rates of suicide that have been left unaddressed for too long.”
“To me, it’s absolutely shocking the minister has nothing to do with this and unwilling to reach out. We haven’t seen hide or hair of Jim Reiter in weeks. He’s really not present on this extremely important file,” Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said.
“It’s an embarrassment and he needs to step up and Scott Moe needs to step up as well.”