Woman dies after head injuries, arrest

”There are a lot of rumours going around”


The friend of a woman who died Aug. 14 in an Ottawa hospital after a fall outside Iqaluit’s Nova Hotel is concerned she didn’t get the immediate treatment she needed at the Iqaluit hospital.

The woman struck her head in a fall down the stairs outside the Nova Inn shortly after midnight on Aug. 9.

She was taken to hospital, arrested by police for causing a disturbance in the emergency ward and held for 14 hours — then returned to the hospital when she was found on her cell floor in distress.

The woman was medevaced to Ottawa where she passed away on Aug. 14 from injuries sustained in the fall.

“I’m just upset that the hospital didn’t do a full examination first, before sending for the police,” said a friend of the deceased woman, who did not want to be identified.

“There are a lot of rumours going around,” the friend said. “They took her to the drunk tank without [medical staff} examining her. Of course she was causing a disturbance. She had just come out from a shock.”

As of Aug. 25, police still had not released the name of the 52-year-old woman. The friend said the family does not want the name released either.

Police are treating the case as an “in-custody death,” and the investigation has been assigned to the RCMP’s major crimes unit in Winnipeg, Sgt. Jimmy Akavak said.

According to a police statement, the investigation will address “the complete circumstances of the incident, including an operational and administrative review.”

Contacted by Nunatsiaq News, Acting Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services Raj Downe made the following statement:

“We are not able to discuss individual cases, however, we understand the RCMP is investigating this incident and if asked, the Department of Health and Social Services will cooperate fully on this investigation. As part of our quality assurance process, we will be reviewing this matter.”

Here is a timeline of the events leading to the woman’s death, based on police information:

  • Aug. 9, sometime after midnight — a woman falls down the stairs while leaving the Nova Hotel;
  • she injures her head and is taken by ambulance to Qikiktani Regional Hospital;
  • 3 a.m. — hospital personnel report the woman is causing a disturbance in the emergency award, and ask police, who are at the hospital on another matter, to deal with her;
  • deciding she is intoxicated, police agree to take her into custody (it is unclear at this point, what, if any, medical attention she received before being arrested);
  • medical staff ask that she be returned to the hospital when sober;
  • police put the woman in a cell, where they say she is “monitored closely;”
  • 2 p.m., 11 hours after her arrest — police call the hospital to inquire about bringing the woman back in for examination, but are told hospital staff are too busy to accept her;
  • 5:20 p.m., 14 hours after her arrest, and 17 hours after the original injury — police find the woman lying on the floor of her cell, showing signs of medical distress;
  • officers immediately return her to the hospital, from which she is medevaced to Ottawa;
  • Aug. 14 — the woman dies in Ottawa, as a result of injuries received in the Aug. 9 fall.
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