The government’s health minister is accusing the NDP of taking credit for an inquest into the deaths of two women who had been treated at The Watson Lake Community Hospital.
Teresa Ann Scheunert, 47, died June 21, 2012 and Mary Johnny, 60, died less than two months later on Aug. 9.
Earlier this week, Yukon Chief Coroner Kirsten Macdonald called a single inquest into the two deaths.
This came after the government refused opposition pressure to call its own public inquiry into the facts.
“(The coroner’s office) is an independent office, it has the responsibility to determine the facts around unexplained or unexpected deaths. It’s her job to give recommendations,” Heath and Social Services Minister Doug Graham said. “I’ve said over and over that we don’t interfere this those operations, that we believe the coroner’s office will do the right thing.”
An inquest’s jury has the option of making recommendations regarding how to prevent similar deaths in the future. They do not assign guilt or legal responsibility.
Despite not calling an inquiry, Graham said he’s not surprised Macdonald called an inquest.
“I think that she sees that there probably are some unexplained issues in Watson Lake and that a coroner’s inquest is the best way to explain or unravel all of the facts surrounding those deaths.”
He criticized the Official Opposition.
“The opposition is claiming some sort of credit. That is so sad. They’re saying that unless they had done this, the coroner wouldn’t have made this decision. That’s insulting to the coroner, it’s inappropriate,” Graham said.
“I think that if everyone had taken a step backwards two weeks ago, this decision would still have been reached by the coroner because in hindsight, there’s no doubt in my mind it’s the right thing to do.”