Par­ents sue GPHC over new­born’s death

-claim neona­tal unit was con­tam­i­nated

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

The par­ents of a new­born baby who died at the Ge­orge­town Pub­lic Hospi­tal Cor­po­ra­tion (GPHC) have filed a wrong­ful death law­suit, claim­ing that the in­sti­tu­tion was aware that the Neona­tal In­ten­sive Care Unit (NICU) was con­tam­i­nated at the time.

The par­ents of the now de­ceased Maleek Sandy, who died from sep­sis, are al­leg­ing that the hospi­tal was aware that the NICU was con­tam­i­nated by a ‘bug,’ which sub­se­quently led to the child’s death on March 11th, 2018.

While Sun­day Stabroek has con­firmed that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cou­ple’s claim is on­go­ing, the fa­ther of the child, Wil­fred Sandy, told this news­pa­per that the de­ci­sion to take le­gal ac­tion against the hospi­tal comes in wake of what he be­lieves have been at­tempts to cover up the truth as it re­lates to his son’s death.

Ac­cord­ing to Sandy, his fi­ancée be­gan ex­pe­ri­enc­ing pains on March 2nd, and was rushed to the New Am­s­ter­dam Hospi­tal, where she gave birth to their son three days later.

While there were no com­pli­ca­tions ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the de­liv­ery, Sandy said his fi­ancée, who is also a doc­tor, re­alised that some­thing was wrong when the new­born be­gan vom­it­ing a strange green­ish sub­stance.

He re­lated that nurses at the hospi­tal were no­ti­fied and the baby was ad­mit­ted to the hospi­tal’s NICU, where he im­me­di­ately un­der­went a se­ries of tests, the re­sults of which in­di­cated that the in­fant was suf­fer­ing from duo­de­nal atre­sia (intestinal ob­struc­tion).

This con­di­tion, ac­cord­ing to doc­tors, would have re­quired surgery to clear the block­age in his in­testines, and as such, Maleek was trans­ferred to the GPHC, where he was re-ex­am­ined and sub­se­quently ad­mit­ted to the hospi­tal’s NICU.

Ac­cord­ing Sandy, they were told by doc­tors at GPHC that no block­age of the in­testines was seen, but that he would have to be­gin treat­ment with an­tibi­otics since they be­lieved him to be suf­fer­ing from an in­fec­tion.

How­ever, after an­other set of ex­am­i­na­tions were car­ried out on the in­fant one day later, doc­tors dis­cov­ered a par­tial block­age of the child’s in­testines and rec­om­mended that he un­dergo the surgery.

But what was oth­er­wise sup­posed to be a sim­ple surgery be­came an im­me­di­ate night­mare for the first time par­ents as the child’s health be­gan to de­te­ri­o­rate in a mat­ter of days.

Never came

Sandy said they were told that their son would un­dergo the surgery on Satur­day, March 10th and that he was given blood platelets as part of prepa­ra­tion.

The man said his fi­ancée, who was ac­com­mo­dated nearby in or­der to be closer to the child, con­tin­u­ously mon­i­tored the baby and quickly re­alised that his con­di­tion was get­ting worse.

“She no­ticed that his tummy be­gan to swell and he was turn­ing yel­low as though he had jaun­dice. She spoke to the nurses and told them that he needed to be put un­der ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing, but that did not hap­pen un­til the next day,” Sandy shared, be­fore not­ing that they had tried on sev­eral oc­ca­sions to speak with the head sur­geon.

“We were told to en­sure that we spoke to the head sur­geon to get a clear un­der­stand­ing of what was go­ing on. Ev­ery day we were there we tried to see her but that never hap­pened. We were told that we would have seen her on the Satur­day since the surgery was sched­uled for 11 am but she never came,” the man added.

The surgery was re­port­edly can­celled after the par­ents were in­formed that the in­fant’s platelet count was low.

Sandy said this be­came an­other is­sue as they were then told that the Blood Bank did not have any platelets read­ily avail­able. He noted that when he in­quired if he or his fi­ancée could do­nate, he was told that there was no guar­an­tee that it would be a match.

The man said the sit­u­a­tion was so dire that he be­gan in­quir­ing whether or not he could have the child trans­ferred to a pri­vate in­sti­tu­tion. How­ever, he was told that be­cause of the child’s con­di­tion, a move was not ad­vis­able, and that the same sur­geon would have had to op­er­ate at the pri­vate hospi­tal since she is the coun­try’s pae­di­atric sur­geon.

Sandy said that he was once again asked if he had met with the head sur­geon, but re­lated that they were not been given the op­por­tu­nity to. He noted that he was given a num­ber of a se­nior doc­tor, whom he said found it strange that they were un­able to meet with the sur­geon.

“When I spoke to the doc­tor he said it was un­ac­cept­able and he made calls to the hospi­tal to see what was go­ing on. Not long after that we had sev­eral doc­tors com­ing to us say­ing that [our] baby suf­fer­ing from res­pi­ra­tory dis­tress and that they will have to put a tube down his throat be­cause he is not get­ting oxy­gen,” the man re­counted.

What made mat­ters worse, Sandy said, was the fail­ure of the doc­tors and nurses to lo­cate a read­ily avail­able ster­ile tube to use. He said the child died close to mid­night on Sun­day, by the time doc­tors were able to in­sert the tube.

Cover up

Sandy told the Sun­day Stabroek that the cause of death was given as sep­sis.

While they were al­ready strug­gling with the death of their new­born child, the man said they later found out from nurses in the ward that the NICU had been deal­ing with a “bug” and that there had been other deaths.

“I be­gan mak­ing my own in­quiries and that’s when I found out sev­eral ba­bies who were in the NICU had died, and all their cause of deaths were listed as sep­sis. When we came to claim our child’s body from the mor­tu­ary, [that] was an­other is­sue be­cause we had to look through doors of other dead ba­bies,” Sandy re­lated.

“We even had is­sues with get­ting a doc­tor to sign off on the death cer­tifi­cate. No one from the team of doc­tors who were look­ing after our child wanted to sign the cer­tifi­cate and we were put on an­other run around,” he added.

Nev­er­the­less, Sandy said that they lodged an of­fi­cial com­plaint with GPHC’s com­plaints de­part­ment and were told they would be con­tacted within 29 days. How­ever, 29 days turned into two months be­fore they were con­tacted by the hospi­tal and in­vited to a meet­ing with the Deputy Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer (DCEO) of the hospi­tal and other of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the pre­vi­ously elu­sive head sur­geon for the pae­di­atric ward.

He said they were ini­tially told by the DCEO that based on what was re­layed by the head sur­geon, their child would have died ei­ther way.

“I found that hard to believe since they told us from the be­gin­ning at New Am­s­ter­dam that the surgery was go­ing to be an easy one. I con­fronted them about the claims the nurses made about the virus in the NICU and they all went silent,” Sandy shared.

“Even­tu­ally the head sur­geon said that they were aware of it and had made ef­forts to move the ba­bies and have the place cleaned, but that they went back and it was still there. I told them that they knew the place had a virus and they ex­posed my child to it. Our child did not go in there with any com­pli­ca­tions ex­cept for the blocked in­testines, but the minute he got there he kept get­ting sicker and sicker,” the grieving fa­ther added.

He fur­ther noted that at­tempts were made to meet with the Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Health Volda Lawrence, but those were un­suc­cess­ful as she kept re­fer­ring them to other per­son­nel. Let­ters of com­plaint were also sub­mit­ted to the Guyana Med­i­cal Coun­cil and Pres­i­dent David Granger.

“We lodged a writ­ten com­plaint to the Med­i­cal Coun­cil, but the head sur­geon sits on the coun­cil. Is she go­ing to in­ves­ti­gate her­self? We also sent emails to the Pres­i­dent and were told to speak with the Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Health. We have tried and tried, but noth­ing,” Sandy said.

“This is my fi­ancée’s first child, and the first child I was ev­ery able to hold be­cause I had other cases where my ba­bies died from mis­car­riages. This is my fi­ancée’s first time and they did not even of­fer coun­selling for her. If they can do this to their own, think of what they have been do­ing and can do to other peo­ple out there,” he added.

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