Controversial Cape Dorset nurse wants to practice in Nunavut again

Debbie McKeown looking for GN reference to renew nursing licence


Former Cape Dorset nurse Debbie McKeown and the territorial licensing body for nurses, are embroiled in a legal battle over whether McKeown should be allowed to practice nursing again in Nunavut. (FILE PHOTO)

Former Cape Dorset nurse Debbie McKeown and the territorial licensing body for nurses, are embroiled in a legal battle over whether McKeown should be allowed to practice nursing again in Nunavut. (FILE PHOTO)

Deborah McKeown, the former Cape Dorset nurse at the centre of a nursing scandal involving the death a three-month-old baby, wants to practice nursing again in Nunavut.

McKeown tried to regain her Nunavut nursing license in both 2015 and 2016.

But to date she has been unsuccessful.

That’s according to documents filed by McKeown’s lawyer at the Nunavut Court of Justice in a civil suit McKeown began in February 2015 against the Registered Nursing Association of Northwest Territories and Nunavut, or RNATNU.

This association grants nurses in Nunavut and NWT licenses to work — without those licenses, nurses cannot practice in the two territories.

McKeown’s lawyer, Austin Marshall, asked the Government of Nunavut to provide a reference for the nurse in her 2016 bid to be reinstated with the nursing body.

But the document trail ends there.

It’s unclear if the GN did provide that reference for McKeown. The health department did not respond to a request for information by our press time.

One of the documents on court record is McKeown’s 2015 registration form.

But the nursing association told Nunatsiaq News June 21 that McKeown was not registered to practice nursing in Nunavut in either 2015 or 2016.

In her civil suit, McKeown is asking the Nunavut court to quash disciplinary measures brought against her by the nursing association.

McKeown’s civil suit alleges the nurse-licensing body disciplined her twice for the same set of 2012 complaints, once in 2012 and again in 2014.

Those complaints related to McKeown’s nursing practice in the months before and after the 2012 death of a three-month-old infant, Makibi Timilak, in Cape Dorset.

While in Cape Dorset, McKeown broke a number of policies the night Baby Makibi died, an external investigation into the baby’s death found.

The nursing body put restrictions on McKeown’s license following Makibi’s death, but they were lifted when McKeown completed a series of courses prescribed by the nursing body.

But McKeown said, in an affidavit filed in court, that the nursing body began investigating the same set of complaints in 2013.

According to McKeown’s affidavit, that investigation led to a suspension of McKeown’s nursing license in May 2014

The suspension was in place until late 2014 and should have been lifted after McKeown had complied with the terms of a dispute resolution agreement with the nursing body, McKeown argued in a November 2015 letter filed with the court.

Therefore, McKeown says she should be eligible for registering as a nurse again in Nunavut.

Here’s where it gets even more technical: McKeown argues in court documents that because the suspension was only temporary, she should not have to apply for reinstatement into the body, but just for registration.

In response, the nursing body submitted to the court a December 2015 letter saying that the dispute resolution agreement “made no reference to the suspension imposed.”

And McKeown’s license was suspended — not just temporarily, the nursing body argues — so McKeown must apply for reinstatement.

Meanwhile, McKeown appears to be keen on getting a Nunavut nursing license.

McKeown is seeking to “renew her membership as a registered nurse,” in Nunavut, says the last document in a batch filed in March by McKeown’s lawyer.

“As part of the renewal, RNANTNU requires our client to file a reference from her employer for each of the 2015 and 2016 registration years… We ask that you arrange for completion of the forms and return them to us,” Marshall wrote the GN.

According to court records, there is no date yet set for McKeown’s civil matter to appear before Justice Sue Cooper.

That’s likely because Cooper must first rule on a number of motions filed with the court, including two motions from the nursing body’s lawyer to dismiss the civil matter entirely.

Earlier this year, Nunavut’s coroner called an inquest into the events surrounding Baby Makibi’s death, which the coroner told Nunatsiaq News will likely be held before 2017.

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