Rocky Whitford holds his son, Jesse in a photo from a few years ago. Jesse will be five years old in October. (Submitted Photo)

Rocky Whitford holds his son, Jesse in a photo from a few years ago. Jesse will be five years old in October. (Submitted Photo)

Widow of man in mental health distress questions Cariboo hospital protocol

Warning: This story contains details about suicide that may be distressing.

Warning: This story contains details about suicide that may be distressing.

The widow of a man says he was just looking for help when he visited G.R. Baker Hospital in mid-May. But that was in apparent short supply, leaving a child without their dad and Kelly Ann Burgis with many questions.

Burgis was visiting family in Quesnel with her partner, Rocky Whitford, on Wednesday, May 12. Before arriving at their destination, Whitford said he needed to go to the hospital for help. He had been receiving mental health treatment at his hometown of Lac La Biche, Alberta, an 11-hour drive away.

“The whole drive I think he was going back and forth in his mind, take his life or get help, and he chose to get help,” Burgis said. “That was what he wanted to do.”

The next day, and three hospital visits later, Burgis said Whitford was found dead inside a GR Baker bathroom.

READ MORE: Cariboo-Prince George MP’s suicide prevention hotline motion passes unanimously

The BC Coroners Office confirmed they are investigating a death at the hospital on May 13.

A Northern Health Spokesperson said RCMP and the Coroners Office were called to investigate “an incident that occurred in a public washroom in a non-patient care area of GR Baker Hospital on May 13.”

Burgis said as soon as they entered the hospital, they were received poorly by what she called an overwhelmed nurse, and their treatment did not improve.

After seeing a mental health nurse, Whitford saw a doctor who organized a stay in a mental health room. Burgis claimed that doctor was dismissive of her husband’s mental health issues.

“This doctor just judged him I’m sure,” Burgis said. “Another Native person, another drug addict coming in off the street we don’t want to deal with. Another problem, let’s get rid of it, let’s wait till it goes away. I don’t want this to keep happening. How many more families is it going to happen to?”

Despite insisting on entering a safe room, Burgis said Whitford didn’t end up in the room. Three hours after being told he would be put in a safe room, Burgis received a call that Whitford had left the hospital.

“For him to ask for help was huge,” she said. “He was telling them, ‘I don’t feel safe, I need to be put somewhere safe.’”

After leaving the hospital that first time on his own, Whitford was returned to the hospital by the RCMP the next day.

“At that point, he had no hope left,” Burgis said. “He thought there was nothing that could help him.”

Later that same day, Burgis said her husband was found dead in the bathroom.

The circumstances of Whitford’s death is being reviewed by Northern Health.

“Generally, patients presenting to hospital with suicidal thoughts would be assessed by an emergency department physician and nurse, most often in collaboration with the hospital’s specialty psychiatric unit, and taking into consideration a patient’s wishes for the course of action and treatment,” the Northern Health Spokesperson said. “Additional staff and supports are provided, depending on the circumstances.”

Burgis said they would have been better off not entering GR Baker Hospital.

“It’s a cycle that keeps going,” she said. “Now we have a broken family. I have a child that has to grow up without a dad, who could possibly have mental health issues down the road and end up in the exact same situation.”

If you feel like you are in crisis or are considering suicide, please call the Crisis Centre BC suicide hotline at 1-800-784-2433.

Other resources include: Canada Suicide Prevention Service at Toll free: 1-833-456-4566. You can also text 45645 or visit the online chat service at crisisservicescanada.ca.

Some warning signs include suicidal thoughts, anger, recklessness, mood changes, anxiety, lack of purpose, helplessness and substance use.

READ MORE: ‘Dealing with a lot:’ Suicide crisis calls mount during COVID-19 pandemic

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com


@GimliJetsMan
cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Northern HealthQuesnelsuicide

Just Posted

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read