‘Ir­re­spon­si­ble and hurt­ful’

At­tor­ney for three dead ba­bies’ par­ents rips pub­lic de­fender’s re­port

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jodi-Ann Gilpin Gleaner Writer

An at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing three of the moth­ers whose ba­bies were among the 19 who died due to bac­te­rial in­fec­tions last year has de­scribed claims by the Of­fice of the Pub­lic De­fender – that there was no ev­i­dence that they were in­fected be­cause of med­i­cal neg­li­gence on the part of hospi­tal em­ploy­ees – as ir­re­spon­si­ble and hurt­ful. ‘Ir­re­spon­si­ble’

MARC RAM­SAY, the at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing three of the moth­ers whose ba­bies were among the 19 who died due to bac­te­rial in­fec­tions, has de­scribed a re­port from the Of­fice of the Pub­lic De­fender (OPD) as ir­re­spon­si­ble and hurt­ful.

A re­port by the OPD con­cluded that the eight pre­ma­ture ba­bies who died in sep­a­rate in­fec­tious in­ci­dents at the Univer­sity Hospi­tal of the West Indies (UHWI) in June last year were the “un­for­tu­nate vic­tims of an un­der-re­sourced med­i­cal fa­cil­ity”.

Last year, 19 preterm ba­bies died at the UHWI and the Corn­wall Re­gional Hospi­tal as a re­sult of Ser­ra­tia and Kleb­siella in­fec­tions.

How­ever, the re­port, which was re­leased on Fri­day, said there was no ev­i­dence that the ba­bies were in­fected with Ser­ra­tia and Kleb­siella be­cause of med­i­cal neg­li­gence on the part of hospi­tal em­ploy­ees and even dis­puted me­dia re­ports that there had been an out­break.

Ram­say noted that the ev­i­dence and con­clu­sions pre­sented were dis­ap­point­ing. He in­sisted, how­ever, that he would per­sist in en­sur­ing that jus­tice is served.

“It’s a bit ir­re­spon­si­ble based on the con­tents of it (re­port). It gives the im­pres­sion that it ap­plies to all the cases when each case should re­ally stand on its own and should be ex­am­ined for its mer­its. The pub­lic de­fender is not a judge. The pub­lic de­fender’s role is as an ad­vo­cate for those who need to be de­fended or who need their rights to be up­held,” Ram­say said.

“Our con­tention from the very be­gin­ning, and also from ex­am­in­ing the ev­i­dence, was that there was an in­ad­e­quate sys­tem in place, and that in­ad­e­quacy meant that cer­tain re­sources were not in place that should have been in place. Cer­tain things like wa­ter and soap, those are not char­ac­ter­is­tic of some­where that is un­der-re­sourced. That is char­ac­ter­is­tic of some­where that is neg­li­gent be­cause those are ba­sic things that are needed to pre­vent the spread of cer­tain ill­nesses to vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren,” he de­clared.

He added: “One of my clients, her son had a 95 per cent chance of sur­vival when he was born, so this nar­ra­tive that makes it seem as if these were chil­dren who were des­tined to die is not true.”

RE­PORT NEEDED BAL­ANCE

The at­tor­ney also said that the re­port needed bal­ance, not­ing that he had sent sev­eral let­ters to the pub­lic de­fender but did not re­ceive a re­sponse.

“There are some chal­lenges that I have with it. One chal­lenge is that the ex­perts that were used to sub­stan­ti­ate her con­clu­sion, they are both per­sons who at some point were em­ployed to the hospi­tal. But be­yond that, we did not sub­mit a brief on be­half of our clients. We had writ­ten to the pub­lic de­fender. A let­ter was de­liv­ered to her and we did not get a re­sponse. This re­port has come out and the only ref­er­ence to a sub­mis­sion by an at­tor­ney is UHWI’s lawyers,” he said.

“It’s ir­re­spon­si­ble be­cause one, it’s a blan­ket state­ment. A child is not a num­ber, and that is what we have been try­ing to em­pha­sise. Yes, we have said 19 ba­bies have died, but these are ba­bies with names, each with in­di­vid­ual cases, in­di­vid­ual af­flic­tions, which needed in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion and in­di­vid­ual treat­ment. So to pub­lish a re­port that says none of it was neg­li­gent when I know, for ex­am­ple, that two of my clients did not even speak to her, is ir­re­spon­si­ble. It’s also very hurt­ful.”

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