Charges of malpractice made after passing of young Whatì mother

“I love you Rachel Simpson forever and forever. I’ll take care of our son I promise R.I.P. my love.”

Ben Wedzin and Rachel Simpson hold their newborn baby at Christmas. (Photo courtesy Ben Wedzin.)

There are tears mixed with anger in Whatì after the passing of 24-year-old Rachel Simpson in an Edmonton hospital Tuesday night with her family by her side.

And security measures and staffing protocols at the Lac le Marte Health Centre are under review, “to ensure the safety of both staff and patients,” says the territorial government.

Rachel Simpson prepares some food. Her death has caused deep pain and sorrow in the community of Whatì. (Photo from Facebook.)

Spokesperson Andrew Wind told CKLB Radio that, “Any necessary adjustments will be made with careful consideration to ensure the safety of staff and the needs of the community.”

Rachel’s partner Ben Wedzin says she fell ill on Friday. She was Medevaced to Yellowknife from the Tłı̨chǫ community heavily medicated or in a coma, and then on to Edmonton. She never regained consciousness.

The heartbreaking decision to remove her from life support at 6:35 p.m. was made as her brain had been severely injured after following medical instructions from Lac le Marte Health Centre staff.

On Tuesday night from the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Rachel’s partner Ben Wedzin told the world how much he loved her and that he will miss her.

“I love you Rachel Simpson forever and forever. We were just laughing at home with baby three days ago. I’ll never forget you my love. I’ll take care of our son I promise R.I.P. my love.”

Earlier in the day, he told CKLB the mother of their five-month-old son would still be alive if she had been properly diagnosed and treated in the Health Centre in Whatì.

The Health Centre’s emergency line was called Friday and Saturday twice and she and was told to take Advil or Tylenol for her pain and discomfort.

Ben says finally on Sunday, after three calls they finally took her when she couldn’t breath or move.

“Her body didn’t have any oxygen she was suffocating for three days. She had disease in her body and she had pneumonia, then double pneumonia.”

“They just said that she’s having an anxiety attack and she’s supposed to relax. They told her to take Advil.

“But when we told them she still can’t breathe, then double the dosage. That’s all … (they) told us to double the dosage like that’s what they said word for word.”

Whatì residents and the couple’s family and friends are expressing their love for Rachel through social media posts.

But many are absolutely furious at the Health Centre and calls are being made for the nursing staff on duty on the weekend to be disciplined or fired.

Here is an example of the prayers being sent the family’s way, followed by anger towards the poor care she received until she was almost in a coma.

Author Katłįà Laferte stated that someone needs to be held accountable for Rachel’s passing and the other unnecessary deaths across the North.

“Who’s keeping track of the number of unnecessary deaths in communities because the health care centers are not wanting to send them out for tests? An independent investigation should be done ASAP.”

Yellowknife resident Charlene Chappel called for accountability from the Health Centre’s operators.

“This makes me so, so, so mad! This young mom was ignored, her life could have been saved (but now) her little baby will never know his mother because … nurses didn’t do their jobs.

“This happens all over the North and I’m so sick of it. How do they get away with this?? They need to be held accountable.”

So many people described Rachel as the most “purest, cutest and kind-hearted person” and that she will be sorely missed.

Ben Wedzin is struggling to come to grips with the loss of his partner, Rachel Simpson. (Photo from Facebook.)

The Territorial Government does not operate the Whati health centre, as the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency operates health centres in that region (there are three health authorities in the NWT, Hay River Health and Social Services Authority being the other one).

But a spokesperson for the GNWT’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) stated legislative requirements protect patient information, even in the case of a deceased person.

Speaking on behalf of the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency (TCSA), Andrew Wind stated in an email to CKLB that:

“We also cannot respond to your questions about staffing levels and the type of healthcare worker involved due to the previously mentioned legal constraints.

“The TCSA is committed to providing quality care and is reviewing what happened to understand the situation, address concerns raised, and – if found – address any gaps or errors in care.

“As part of the review, it will be determined if an outside investigation is required.”

Wind stated that in response to concerns raised by residents on social media, “we take their feedback seriously.”

Wind stated that when a patient in the Tłı̨chǫ region has concerns about their care, they are encouraged to reach out to the TCSA as soon as possible, “so that we can work productively and collaboratively to address them.”

Residents can also contact the Office of Client Experience to express their complaints or concerns around the delivery of health and social services.

CKLB Radio has reached out to Tłı̨chǫ Government Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty and others such as Monfwi MLA Jane Weyallon Armstrong for comment.

This story will be updated as replies are received.


(ED. NOTE: A screen grab of a Facebook post was removed from the story at the author’s request at 3:20 p.m. on Feb 29. And a line from another social media post was removed at 9:30 a.m. on March 1.  )

About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: