Trinidad: ‘Sheer Medical Negligence, Incompetence’

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) – The parents of seven babies who died as a result of bacterial outbreaks at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) earlier this month are pursuing a class action lawsuit for medical negligence.

And the pre-action protocol letter dated April 12 sent by Freedom Law Chambers to the North-West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) claims the authority permitted another baby who was suffering from a “serious infection to be admitted without taking the necessary precautions to manage and minimise the risk of infection and transmission to other babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)”.

Freedom Law Chambers, led by Senior Counsel Anand Ramlogan, delivered the pre-action protocol letter to the NWRHA’s chief executive officer yesterday, representing the parents of the seven deceased babies—Shaniya Raymond-Adams, Natasha Samuel, Shaquille Harry, Danyelle Samaroo, Tinelle Saunders, Jodie Molino and Shirese Moore-Beckles.

“We hereby give notice that we intend to file an unprecedented class action claim for medical negligence based on the mass death of seven innocent babies at the Port of Spain General Hospital (“PoSGH”).

“Our clients trusted the PoSGH to provide a competent and reasonable standard of care that would ensure the safe delivery of their babies to their ultimate detriment. They have all been struggling to cope with the devastating news of the tragic deaths that have occurred,” the pre-action protocol letter stated.

“Seven babies have died as a result of the sheer medical negligence, incompetence and substandard level of care provided by PoSGH. It is clear that these deaths were quietly swept under the carpet by the Ministry of Health (“MOH”) the North West Regional Health Authority NWRHA”). But for the exposé in the Trinidad Express Newspaper and the TV6 news, the public would not have known about these serious incidents,” it added.

The pre-action protocol letter stated that while seven deaths have been exposed by the media, Freedom Law is still in the process of assessing the true impact and scale of the tragedy, as several other parents have since contacted them with similar horror stories regarding their experience at the PoSGH and the negligent death of their babies.

The lawyers also want to know the total number of babies that have died at Port of Spain General since January 1.

A mother’s ordeal

The pre-action protocol letter detailed the ordeal of a 27-year-old Raymond-Adams, whose baby Kae’ Jhene Kerniah Charles died while in the NICU just five days after the she was delivered and considered to be “healthy”.

Staff at the hospital, the letter alleged, had assured family members that the child was in a good condition, and dismissed their initial concerns for her well-being.

In addition, it states that when Raymond-Adams attempted to get proper medical attention for Kae’ Jhene, as she sensed something was wrong, she was met with a dismissive attitude from staff, that “could be summed up in one loud ‘steups’ and rolling eyes”.

Raymond-Adams was 32 weeks pregnant when she began experiencing pains and was transported by family members to the Port of Spain General Hospital on March 31.

On April 1 she gave birth, via Caesarean section, to a healthy baby girl who was placed in the NICU.

Kae’ Jhene was noted to be strong and healthy, moving her arms and legs, the letter said.

On April 2, Kae’ Jhene was taken off a ventilator and Raymond-Adams was assured by a doctor that there was no need for concern, as the baby was sufficiently strong and healthy. On April 3, after being fed some milk, the letter said Kae’ Jhene vomited and displayed signs of discomfort.

On that day, Raymond–Adams asked the nurse to call a doctor but was told the baby was fine. One day later, when Kae’ Jhene’s father Kerron Charles visited the NICU, the child was observed vomiting again, and staff indicated that six antibiotics had been administered to her. They were told Kae’ Jhene had developed a blood infection, according to the letter.

On April 5, the letter said Raymond-Adams was advised that Kae’ Jhene’s blood levels were low and a transfusion was necessary, which left her confused and frightened for her daughter’s well-being. She was discharged from the hospital reluctantly that day, it said. Around 8 p.m., a nurse told family members, via a telephone call, the transfusion was successful and that the child had suffered no adverse reactions.

But the next morning, the letter states, Raymond-Adams received a call from the hospital, informing her Kae’ Jhene’s lungs were filling with blood and her heart rate was declining.

When the parents arrived at the hospital, the doctor told them the baby had been resuscitated twice and that resuscitation efforts would stop. The baby passed away at 10.21 a.m. on Friday, April 5, the letter said.

Criminal investigation

Raymond-Adams, the letter added, had overheard a conversation between nurses on the admission of a baby that had been transferred from a private medical centre on March 1 due to bacterial infection. These nurses, it said, were concerned the infection may spread to other babies.

“Of major concern to us is the fact that we have been instructed that a baby which was suffering from a serious viral infection was transferred from the St Clair Medical Centre to the NICU in circumstances where the risk of transmission and exposure to infection was reasonably foreseeable.

“No attempt was made to properly isolate our clients’ babies to prevent infection because of the wealth, power and status of this prominent Syrian family. Our clients noticed that the medical staff were not sanitising and washing their hands as they were being asked to do on the basis that failure to do so could be detrimental. If the staff caring for this compromised baby were not washing their hands and sanitising then there is a real risk that they transmitted the infection,” it said.

A criminal investigation is in this case justifiable, the letter stated.

“To knowingly expose innocent babies to such a clear risk of foreseeable harm without implementing appropriate preventative measures to manage the risk exposure and prevent transmission is cruel and inhuman and could justify a criminal investigation to determine whether charges for manslaughter and misbehaviour in public office occurred,” it said.

The letter also questioned why the babies’ deaths were not immediately addressed by the Ministry of Health.

The NWRHA has been given seven days to respond.