The family of a man who died of drug overdose last year says he didn’t receive the health care needed to save his life when in hospital just hours before.
Shayne Turner died of fentanyl poisoning in White City on Nov. 8, 2021, his sister, Ashley, told reporters at the Saskatchewan legislature Tuesday.
The night of Nov. 7, she says, he was admitted to Regina General Hospital following an initial overdose.
“In the hospital, within a four-hour period, he had pleaded to an addictions counsellor, multiple nurses and a doctor for detox seven times,” Turner said, adding that her brother was told there were no detox beds available nearby.
“He was experiencing withdrawal and knew he needed medical care. Instead he was sent home with two pamphlets and a cab voucher. He was released, and that very same day my brother died of a fentanyl overdose.”
Now, amid a promise from the Saskatchewan government to contact the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) over the matter, they’re calling for a coroner’s inquest.
“I’m here today because I lost my person and my best friend. Grief and pain is a foundation of who we are as a family,” said Turner of her brother, who was 31 and a father of two when he passed away.
“It is time for people with power and authority to execute an overdose prevention plan that is going to be successful.”
In addition to her family’s call for an inquest, Turner asked for more provincial funding for mental health and addictions service, more detox facilities, funding for supervised consumption sites and the decriminalization of drugs.
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Turner said the Saskatchewan Coroner has reopened the investigation into Shayne’s death and on Nov. 6 said he would respond to the family within 60 days.
In an emailed response, a Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice spokesperson confirmed that the Saskatchewan Coroners Service has received a request for an inquest from the family.
“The Chief Coroner is reviewing the investigation and the family’s request,” the statement reads.
“The Coroners Service plans to reach out to the family once it has completed its review.”
Speaking to reporters, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Everett Hindley said this is the first he’s heard of Shayne’s story but that “he’s going to be asking questions” of senior SHA leadership about the death.
Hindley said he couldn’t provide details on the current availability of addictions treatment beds, but said, “We do need to add capacity.”
He said the RFP process for the creation of 150 new treatment beds wrapped up this past fall, and that he hopes for those beds to be operational “very soon” and that he’s hoping to make another announcement on the matter this winter.
Asked about addictions supports in Saskatchewan, and the idea of finding safe consumption sites in the province, Hindley referenced investments in drug testing strips and spectrometers and access to naloxone kits.
“This is a challenge right across Saskatchewan. We’re trying, with what resources we have, to spread those out across the province as much as we possibly can.”
Turner added that as he was being discharged from hospital, Shayne was told by the addictions counsellor to seek assistance from social services.
“He didn’t need social assistance. After a near-death experience he needed continued health care,” she said.
She said he also was not given a naloxone kit when he left the hospital, another tool that could have saved his life.
“I miss my brother immensely, and every cell in my body is mourning the loss of him,” Turner said of Shayne, whom she says was the “glue of our family, a great father and very funny.”
“My brother is gone but I will not let him be another statistic in the system.”