Wanda Zimmerman is speaking out in the wake of the inquest into the death of Mary Johnny.
Zimmerman’s sister, Teresa Ann Scheunert, died just two months before Johnny did in 2012.
Both women died after receiving treatment at the Watson Lake Hospital.
A year ago, a coroner’s inquest was called into their deaths.
Scheunert’s death, as a result of mixed drug toxicity, was ruled an accident, but in Johnny’s case, it was classified a homicide. Zimmerman said it’s time for the Yukon Hospital Corporation to explain itself.
“The people of the Yukon, and our family, deserve to have answers,” she said.
“I can certainly understand the grief and frustration the Johnny family has gone through. Certainly, such a strong statement of homicide in Mary’s case should be an indication that there needs to be some immediate action.”
After the Johnny inquest wrapped up on Oct. 17, a six-person jury made four recommendations to the Yukon Hospital Corporation.
Some of the recommendations overlap with the ones made by the jury at the Scheunert inquest, such as the need for routine audits to ensure standards of adequate documentation.
A total of 28 recommendations were made in both inquests.
Zimmerman said she wants to see the Yukon Hospital Corporation appear before the legislative assembly this fall sitting.
They need to provide an update on the recommendations they’re implementing, she added.
“Some of the recommendations aren’t extensive types of processes that they have to put through a number of committees to complete,” she said.
“Create the form, have your board review it and put it in place. I really hope they’re able to report that that’s been done, because they’re talking the talk, so now they have to walk the walk.”
Scheunert had been working at the Watson Lake Hospital for three years when she was admitted for back pain.
She died two weeks later, on June 21, 2012 at the age of 47.
Zimmerman said it was a grueling struggle for her and her family to get the Yukon government to recognize there were systemic issues at the Watson Lake Hospital.
They tried contacting the Yukon Hospital Corporation on multiple occasions but kept being bounced around from person to person, Zimmerman said.
This went on for months.
“We said, ‘We’ve had enough, we don’t feel comfortable with the whole situation, why isn’t anyone talking to us?’” she said.
After sustained pressure, the Yukon Hospital Corporation did an internal review of Scheunert’s death.
The family was promised a copy of the review’s final recommendations but never received them, Zimmerman said.
Frustrated and desperate for answers, the family travelled to Whitehorse in November, met with Health Minister Doug Graham and began calling for a coroner’s inquest. An inquest was announced later that month, 17 months after Scheunert’s death.
“It took our family all of our spare time and some of our non-spare time trying to even get to that point,” Zimmerman said.
“Now, we’ve been told the Yukon Hospital Corporation wants to follow through on the recommendations. We want to hear dates, timelines and more concrete information from them on when they plan on doing that.”
One of the most important recommendations, Zimmerman said, has to do with filling out paperwork, an issue that was brought up again during the Mary Johnny inquest.
Dr. Said Secerbegovic, Johnny’s physician for 35 years, was criticized for holes in his paperwork.
“There has to be some kind of audit system that ensures that charting, by everybody who is responsible for a patient, is in fact done,” Zimmerman said.
“It’s a team effort and if someone isn’t doing their part there’s a gap. If we can prevent deaths from occurring, why wouldn’t we?”
Every Canadian, no matter where they live, deserves to have good health care, she added.
“Just because you live in a more remote place and it may cost more money to provide that care, you’re still deserving, no matter who you are.”
Contact Myles Dolphin at