Merit found in com­plaint against doc­tors in Carol Joseph mat­ter

-Med­i­cal Coun­cil dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee to de­lib­er­ate

Stabroek News - - LETTERS -

The Med­i­cal Coun­cil of Guyana (MCG) has found merit in a com­plaint of opi­oid pre­scrip­tion abuse against three doc­tors at­tached to the Fort Welling­ton Hospi­tal and has sent a re­port to its dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee for a de­ci­sion.

“We have com­pleted our in­ves­ti­ga­tions and how the Med­i­cal Coun­cil is set up we are sup­posed to send it to a spe­cial select com­mit­tee where they will de­cide on what course of ac­tion should be taken,” Chair­man of the MCG, Dr Navin Ram­bar­ran told Stabroek News when con­tacted.

“Send­ing it to the com­mit­tee does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that any­one is guilty, it is just the pro­ce­dure that we take, ac­cord­ing the Med­i­cal Prac­ti­tion­ers Act,” he added.

Ram­bar­ran ex­plained that while no time­frame is set for when the com­mit­tee should com­plete the process, given the “se­ri­ous­ness of the al­le­ga­tions” it is ex­pected that it would be ex­pe­dited and a de­ci­sion made swiftly.

“The com­mit­tee looks at the case to see if there are penal­ties or wrong­do­ings and we have de­cided that there is merit for the com­plaint. They will now bring in the per­sons, ac­cord­ing to the Act and which falls un­der the dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee to see what steps are to be taken. But like I said it does not mean a doc­tor was guilty it just means that with­out our find­ing merit in the com­plaint it could not go for­ward. We con­fine our re­views di­rectly out of the Health Act and as such it is not some­thing we can de­cide upon,” Ram­bar­ran ex­plained.

The coun­cil looked at and re­ported on its find­ings into what roles the three doc­tors played in the mat­ter where for­mer Re­gion Five Coun­cil­lor Carol Joseph was ac­cused of abus­ing her au­thor­ity to ac­cess large amounts of pre­scrip­tion pain med­i­ca­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to reg­u­la­tions ac­com­pa­ny­ing the Med­i­cal Prac­ti­tion­ers (Amend­ment) Act it is the MCG that de­ter­mines the merit of the com­plaint. “Hav­ing re­gard to any ex­pla­na­tion or rep­re­sen­ta­tion made by the per­son against whom the com­plaint is made (MCG) may-(a) de­ter­mine that the com­plaint is not es­tab­lished and that no fur­ther in­quiry need be held; or (b) re­fer the mat­ter in whole or in part to the Dis­ci­plinary Com­mit­tee. (5) If, dur­ing the com­plaint hear­ings, the Med­i­cal Coun­cil de­ter­mines that no in­quiry shall be held, the Sec­re­tary to the Med­i­cal Coun­cil shall in­form the com­plainant and the per­son against whom the com­plaint is made of the de­ci­sion in such man­ner as the Med­i­cal Coun­cil may di­rect. (6) Where the Med­i­cal Coun­cil is of the opin­ion that a com­plaint so made might, if fac­tu­ally es­tab­lished, call for the ap­pli­ca­tion of dis­ci­plinary mea­sures, the Med­i­cal Coun­cil shall re­fer the mat­ter to its Dis­ci­plinary Com­mit­tee to hear and re­port its find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions to the Med­i­cal Coun­cil to de­ter­mine the case,” the reg­u­la­tions state.

“If the Med­i­cal Coun­cil is of the opin­ion that it is in­ex­pe­di­ent or dan­ger­ous or not in the pub­lic in­ter­est that a per­son un­der in­quiry should con­tinue to prac­tice dur­ing the pen­dency of a dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ing, the Med­i­cal Coun­cil may, by or­der in writ­ing, sus­pend the reg­is­tra­tion of the med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner, pend­ing the out­come of the in­quiry”, the reg­u­la­tions say.

In deal­ing with the com­plaints, the law says that the dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee shall de­cide its own pro­ce­dure but shall have due re­gard to prin­ci­ples of nat­u­ral jus­tice.

For­mal

A for­mal com­plaint was made by PPP/C Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Harry Gill against Dr Steven Cheefoon, Dr Ivelaw Sin­clair and Dr Adrian Van Nooten, who are all at­tached to the Fort Welling­ton Pub­lic Hospi­tal, West Coast Ber­bice. Dr Cheefoon is also the Re­gional Health Of­fi­cer of Re­gion Five.

Let­ters were writ­ten by the MCG to the doc­tors named in the com­plaint, and they replied. In ad­di­tion, the MCG ques­tioned sev­eral per­sons and an­a­lyzed the Fort Welling­ton Hospi­tal’s log book for pre­scrip­tion nar­cotics to see “the fre­quency of how the drugs were pre­scribed and ad­min­is­tered.”

Thus far, nei­ther the Min­istry of Pub­lic Health nor the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ties has launched any in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this mat­ter.

Joseph re­signed from the Re­gion Five Re­gional Demo­cratic Coun­cil on April 21 this year, two days af­ter Stabroek News pub­lished a re­port on her al­leged abuse of med­i­ca­tion. The mat­ter had been drawn to the pub­lic’s no­tice by Gill af­ter Nurse Sher­lyn Marks re­ported to him that her com­plaints to se­nior med­i­cal of­fi­cials about the Joseph case had been ig­nored.

Marks was abruptly trans­ferred by Re­gion Five Re­gional Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Ovid Mor­ri­son af­ter the news item on Joseph’s case ap­peared in this news­pa­per. Mor­ri­son’s trans­fer of the nurse has been con­demned and there have been calls for it to be re­scinded. The Min­istry of Pub­lic Health sub­se­quently said that Marks had breached pub­lic ser­vice rules and that it had sent her to the Depart­ment of the Pub­lic Ser­vice for ac­tion.

Gill pointed out in his com­plaint to the MCG that Nurse Marks had writ­ten to then Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Health Dr Ge­orge Nor­ton on the mat­ter on De­cem­ber 13, 2016. In that let­ter, Marks had said she was be­ing ha­rassed and in­tim­i­dated by Joseph be­cause of the com­plaint she had lodged with Dr Che­foon about the med­i­ca­tion that was to be ad­min­is­tered to Joseph. Marks also sent her let­ter to a num­ber of other re­gional and health of­fi­cials who did noth­ing about it.

Gill noted that the Med­i­cal Prac­ti­tion­ers (Code of Con­duct and Stan­dards of Prac­tice) Reg­u­la­tions 2008 – Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to Pa­tients, Reg­u­la­tion 7- para­graph (5) states: “A med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner shall not ex­pose his pa­tients to risks which may arise from a com­pro­mise of their own health sta­tus (eg de­pen­dence on al­co­hol or other drugs, HIV in­fec­tion, hep­ati­tis and the like).” In ad­di­tion, Reg­u­la­tion 36para­graph (11) reads: “The Med­i­cal Coun­cil may re­gard the pre­scrip­tion or sup­ply of drugs of de­pen­dence oth­er­wise than in the course of bona fide treat­ment as a se­ri­ous pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct.”

Gill urged that the MCG con­duct the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in keep­ing with its own Code of Ethics and Stan­dards of Prac­tice, to pro­tect the in­tegrity of the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion.

Dr Navin Ram­bar­ran

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