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Public inquest looking to determine cause of 2015 remand death
Published Tuesday, May 15, 2018 5:46PM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, May 15, 2018 6:53PM CST
A public inquest into the death of Breanna Kannick is providing more details surrounding how she died in the White Birch Remand Unit in August of 2015.
On Tuesday, the inquest heard from Jenn Berjian, the nurse that was working the day 21-year-old Kannick died.
Berjian recalled Kannick's initial health assessment showed opioid withdrawal, but raised no red flags. She was competent and responsive, and complained about having to go to court on August 20, 2015. Kannick had also gone a few months without menstruating, which can be the result of heavy drug use.
Berjian testified when Kannick’s court day came, the night guards told Berjian that Kannick had screamed for juice during the night, but the guards gave her water instead. Berjian requested to see Kannick before she headed for court, but was told the guards were too busy at the time and she would need to wait. While waiting to see Kannick, Berjian testified one of the guards told her that Kannick was spraying a black liquid out of her nose and mouth.
Berjian said she had never seen anything like it, calling it "awful to see... very traumatizing."
Kannick had a low pulse and emergency crews tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead around 8:30 a.m.
In following interviews with investigators, Berjian was shown a video of Kannick tripping over a plastic container in her cell. Berjian says it looked like Kannick hit her heard on the cement floor and may have lost consciousness for a moment before going back to the bed. But nobody saw it happen, because the screen wasn't being closely monitored. Kannick was only in the cell with a camera because it had immediate access to a washroom for her withdrawal symptoms.
Berjian resigned seven months later, after not seeing any changes to the recommendations she made. Berjian says she suggested the facility needed an AED. She also suggested changes to how the cameras were monitored, giving nurses access to the cameras, having a physician come in once a week for tests, introducing an opioid withdrawal protocol and eliminating split shifts, because portions of the day had no nurse at the facility.
At the time, Berjian says she was told things couldn’t change, because there was no funding. But, the Ministry of Justice says her recommendations have since been met.
Many of the questions from lawyers on Tuesday revolved around specific times and who was responsible for what. Coroner Alma Wiebe pointed out that this is not about anyone being held accountable for this death.
No cause or manner of death has been determined yet. The province says once the inquest is complete, the coroner's jury may make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.
The inquest is expected to last until Friday.