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    Widower Sues Health Minister
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VANCOUVER, B.C. - With the simple filing of a legal document today, a Surrey man has begun a complicated and emotional battle to add meaning to his wife's unnecessary death. In the first case of its kind in Canada, John Sallis is suing the Minister of Health and Vancouver General Hospital for negligence and failing to provide adequate medical care and facilities as outlined in the Hospital Insurance Act.

Mr. Sallis' wife, Mary, required surgery to replace a failing prosthetic valve which had been inserted in her rheumatic heart ten years earlier. Despite being classified as an urgent case, Mary was put on V.G.H.'s heart surgery waiting list. Her operation date was delayed for more than two weeks and she died of resulting complications shortly after receiving surgery on June 1, 1990. She was 52 years old.

Mr. Sallis has retained the services of Vancouver lawyer Barry Long of the firm Bellamy and Long to make both Vancouver General Hospital and British Columbia's Minister of Health accountable for his wife's death. It is Sallis' belief that while nothing can be done to fully compensate for his family's loss, much can be done to ensure that other, similar tragedies be avoided.

Suing the government costs more than Mr. Sallis can cover on his own, so a fund has been set up to assist him in his fight on behalf of his wife and other people in similar situations in British Columbia and across Canada. Donations to the Mary Sallis Legal Fund are now being accepted at all Surrey Credit Union branches.

For further information on the Sallis family's case, see the attached fact sheet.

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Contact: David Liebe, Karyo Communications (604) 732-9106


Particulars of the negligence case brought by Mr. Sallis against Vancouver General Hospital include:

failing to admit Mary Sallis when it knew or ought to have known her health was in danger;

failing to advise Mary Sallis and her physicians to seek treatment elsewhere when it knew or should have known she required immediate medical attention;

failing to establish a priority for admission and surgery based on the patient's condition as opposed to the identity of the patient's doctor.

Particulars of the negligence case brought against the Minister of Health include:

failing to provide accessible hospital services as outlined in the Canada Health Act and the Hospital Insurance Act.

failing to warn the Deceased or other beneficiaries that he could not provide hospital services in a timely fashion.

failing to warn the Deceased or other beneficiaries that they should not rely upon a publicly administered scheme and should purchase insurance should they require hospital services.

The British Columbia Medical Association estimates the current cardio-vascular surgery waiting list in British Columbia is between 700 and 800.

John Sallis is 50 years old and works at Ocean Construction Supplies Ltd. He has two dependent children: Preston, 21, and Kimberly, 18.

His wife, Mary Sallis, suffered from a rheumatic heart. On June 24, 1980, she had two Edwards Laboratories prosthetic valves inserted in her heart; one in her right nitral valve, the other in the aortic valve.

After an average life span of ten years, an Edwards prosthetic valve is designed to partially fail, providing a warning of imminent total failure.

Mary Hazel Sallis was 52 years old when she died on June 1, 1990, shortly after receiving emergency surgery to replace one of her prosthetic heart valves which had begun to fail.

V.G.H. had originally scheduled Mary's operation for May 19, 1990, but closed its operating rooms for urgent cases one day before.

Mary's operation came 17 days after being classified as an urgent case, and one month after becoming ill.

Each case requiring cardio-vascular surgery at Vancouver General Hospital is classified as elective, urgent, or emergency. V.G.H. defines an urgent case as one where treatment is required immediately.