The family of a 20-year-old man, who died in an apparent suicide after he was twice turned away by a hospital in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, is blaming the medical facility for his death.
According to The Daily Beast, Samwel Uko was sent home on both occasions despite telling medical officials he was suffering a mental health crisis.
In an interview with the news outlet, Uko’s family said the deceased college athlete would have been given the necessary medical care instead of being turned away if he had a different skin tone. Uko and his family reportedly immigrated to Canada from South Sudan in 2005.
Uko’s death on May 31, 2020, occurred while he was visiting a family member in Saskatchewan’s capital city of Regina. He twice went to the Regina General Hospital to seek medical help while reportedly suffering a mental health crisis. In a video he posted on Snapchat while in the hospital during one of his visits, Uko is heard pleading for help. “I need help bro, I need help bro, for real,” he is heard saying.
After medical officials released Uko following his first visit, he returned to the hospital the same day – but this time in the company of police officers as he had called to report he was suffering a mental breakdown. But security guards in the hospital forced Uko out. Per footage of the incident, Uko can be heard shouting, “No, no, leave me. Leave me alone! I said… I have mental issues! No, no, please, help.”
Uko was found dead in a lake later in the evening. The 20-year-old apparently committed suicide. Speaking with The Daily Beast, Uko’s distraught mother said his son wasn’t given the necessary medical attention by the hospital because he’s Black.
“That’s my best friend. Everything, everything,” his mother, Joice Bakando, said. “I’m not feeling OK. My son needed help. To kick my son out of the hospital? I don’t know what happened.”
“They didn’t care. Because it’s Black people,” she continued. “I know my son. He doesn’t talk bad to people. He’s very, very nice… all the time, when I’m sleeping, I’m thinking of my son.”
Following Uko’s death, his family filed a lawsuit against the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA). The SHA paid his family $64,000 and admitted they could have handled the situation better in a statement of defense.
“The SHA admits that it failed to meet the standard of care as it failed to provide the necessary follow-up care and assessment that was required,” the SHA said. However, the SHA denied Uko was discriminated against.
“There was difficulty in determining Mr. Uko’s identity and that, in turn, caused or contributed to the failure of the SHA to provide access to Mr. Uko to obtain the additional care and assessment that he may have required,” it added.
But Uko’s uncle, Justin Nyee, maintained his nephew was unfairly treated. “We are angry and upset. We are angry because of the way he was treated in the hospital. Nobody should be treated that way. He was calm and collected, all he was telling them was, ‘I have a mental health problem, you guys help me’,” Nyee told The Daily Beast, adding that the officials on duty could have done better that day.
“What happened to the people working that day? If they would have helped him, he would not have went and committed suicide,” he added. “We did not hear anything from the hospital about that. It’s kind of like, yeah, we apologized, we covered it up, let’s go to the next thing.”
Nyee also maintained his nephew was discriminated against. “If someone had a different skin tone and they were sitting there, they would have helped. It’s not something we want to debate, or talk about, it’s just reality,” he continued. “The doctors there didn’t care, the nurses didn’t care, nobody cared because of who he is.”
“Canada racism is covert racism,” Nyee added. “And this is an example of that.”
Meanwhile, the family has filed a lawsuit against the SHA seeking general or special damages and also punitive or exemplary damages over Uko’s death, CBC reported.