A Mistissini man is embroiled in a dispute with the Cree Health Board over hospital care – or lack thereof – he received at Chibougmau Hospital.

Charlo Iserhoff was badly injured in an alcohol-fueled fight in Mistissini September 23. Passersby found him in the ditch at 5 am. The police were notified and drove him to the clinic in Mistissini, where he was diagnosed with seven fractured ribs, three of them badly broken. As a result of his injuries the clinic sent him to the Chibougamau hospital.

After three days in Chibougamau, Iserhoff said he was suffering from continued pain and felt that something was still seriously wrong. Feeling he wasn’t receiving the care he needed in Chibougamau, Iserhoff took a bus to Montreal, paying his own way. He ended up at the Montreal General Hospital, where they took X-rays and CAT scans.

Iserhoff’s suspicions were correct: Montreal General Hospital staff needed to drain liquid and blood from the left side of his lung. The risk of infection meant he had to stay at the hospital for a several days.

But when Iserhoff went to the Module du Nord, he was told they wouldn’t pay for his accommodations. He was told him he had no authorization to come down to Montreal. His total costs at this point were about $500.

Laura Moses of the health board said that if Iserhoff was admitted at Chibougamu Hospital, it is the Chibougamau hospital’s responsibility. “But instead of coming to Montreal on his own, he should have went back to Mistissini clinic and seen a doctor there,” Moses said.

James Bobbish, who is the acting interim co-coordinator for the Health Board, said an investigation was undertaken. “On September 23 Charlo was seen at the clinic in Mistissini and referred to Chibougamou Hospital. During his hospitalization he ran away from there. On September 26, he had signed a paper [treatment refusal]. Next day he was seen at the Mistissini clinic again, they referred him back to Chibougamau Hospital but there was a verbal agreement with him he should respect hospital care and not run again.

Bobbish said patient services found out October 4 that Iserhoff was in Montreal to seek treatment. “Next day on the fifth he went to the patient services to ask for services. That’s when they told him about the policies we use. That they couldn’t do much for him as he was already referred to Chibougamau Hospital and they would have looked after him there. That’s the first reason. The other is that he chose to go to another destination and by having signed the treatment refusal, it’s like he neglected the NIHB [noninsured health benefits], like refusing to get accommodations and other services so on that day he got angry at the Module du Nord Patient Services,” said Bobbish.

“I guess what he’s trying to say is he’s been denied care from the Health Board. From our records both at the clinic in Mistissini and the Chibougamau hospital, he was referred to Chibougamau hospital and ran away a second time, so it’s hard for us too unless he agrees to some kind of evaluation for someone who’s not responsible for his actions.”

Bobbish explained that the Cree Health Board policy is to make referrals to the nearest facility. “Let’s say if I got sick and could receive services in Val d’Or or Montreal and I preferred to go to Montreal because I have more action there. Then they would refuse me. They would send me to Val d’Or because that’s the nearest facility that has the services I could use.”