The family of former Abbotsford Panthers football star Samwel Uko have opened legal proceedings against the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Government of Saskatchewan.
In a statement of claim issued on Friday (Oct. 16) by Regina-based lawyer Tony Merchant, Uko’s parents and Abbotsford residents Taban Daudau Uko and Joice Guya Issa Bakando are seeking damages for bereavement, grief counselling and loss of future financial support.
Uko died by suicide in Wascana Lake, Sask. at the age of 20 on May 21.
The claim explains that Uko, who was visiting family in Regina, requested that his cousin take him to Regina General Hospital on the morning of May 21 after he was experiencing mental health issues. A nurse at RGH told the cousin he could not accompany Uko inside the hospital due to COVID-19 restrictions.
A doctor at RGH then diagnosed Uko with depression and referred him to a mental health clinic. Uko was in contact with a mental health worker later that morning and booked an appointment with a psychiatrist within a week. He was also told that he should contact a community outreach and support team or go back to the emergency room if he felt worse.
Uko began suffering from mental health issues at around 5 p.m. later that day and was taken to RGH for the second time, this time by the police. Shortly after arriving at RGH he was escorted out of the hospital by security for not being able to provide his name and other information.
His lifeless body was then discovered in the lake that evening at around 7:30 p.m.
The claim adds that Uko met with at least four different nurses and one doctor during his two visits to RGH.
According to the statement, the SHA is liable for the emotional distress and loss caused by RGH employees and was negligent by not ensuring polices and best practices when treating patients with mental health issues were being followed or up to par.
“The SHA, through its agents and employees, failed to provide the requisite medical treatment and healthcare through facilities and programs controlled, administered or funded by Saskatchewan to Samwel who sought treatment for his mental health issues, not once, but on two occasions in a matter of hours,” the statement reads.
The statement also says that this type of negligence by the healthcare industry is intolerable and that Canadians should not allow this type of treatment for mentally ill patients.
“Saskatchewan failed to protect Samwel, who struggled with mental health issues in his most vulnerable state, from the institutional negligence prevalent in the exercise of the health care policies and practices,” the statement of claim reads.
In June it was announced that an inquest into Uko’s death by the Saskatchewan government would be held.
Then in July the SHA formally apologized to the Uko family and stated they had failed him.
The allegations in the claim have not yet been proven in court.
The statement of claim is to be served within six months of the date it was issued (Oct. 16, 2020).