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

A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. (File photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
COVID-19 cases at Surrey school district drop ‘dramatically’

There were 19 notifications sent out in the first 9 days of June, compared to in all of 245 in May

Surrey council chambers. (File photo)
Surrey council endorses ‘public engagement’ strategy

Council approves ‘Public Engagement Strategy and Toolkit,’ and a ‘Big Vision, Bold Moves’ transportation public engagement plan

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Surrey council approves $7.3 million contract for street paving projects

City council awarded Lafarge Canada Inc. $7,326,667.95 for 15 road projects in North Surrey and one in South Surrey

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Locke seeks breakdown on what Surreyites get for taxes paid to Metro Vancouver

Surrey councillor presented motion to council Monday asking city staff to do a cost/benefit analysis

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
SURREY NOW & THEN: Little Theatre’s 59-year history ends with big plans for move to Langley

A former church, the theatre building/property has sold for close to $900,000

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Most Read