Re­port on dead ba­bies mis­guided

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE ED­I­TOR, Sir: I AM ap­palled at the broad­brush ap­proach that Pub­lic De­fender Ar­lene Har­ri­son Henry em­ployed in her in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the deaths of eight pre­ma­ture ba­bies at the Univer­sity Hospi­tal of the West Indies (UHWI), fol­low­ing the kleb­siella and ser­ra­tia out­breaks in June, 2013.

In her re­port that was re­leased on Oc­to­ber 14, Henry said: “There was no out­break at the Neona­tal Unit between June and Oc­to­ber 2015. That which tran­spired was not un­usual and the in­fec­tious hap­pen­ings were part of the haz­ards of low birth weight, un­de­vel­oped or­gans and im­mune sys­tems and the hospi­tal en­vi­ron­ment.”

She sum­marised her find­ings by stat­ing: “The pre­ma­ture ba­bies, who were par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to in­fec­tions, be­came the un­for­tu­nate vic­tims of an un­der-re­sourced med­i­cal fa­cil­ity,” and that it “ap­pears from the ev­i­dence that the con­cept of an out­break was purely a me­dia cre­ation”.

In her wis­dom, it was pru­dent to chide the me­dia and in­ves­ti­gate the hospi­tal staff, but failed to con­sider the state­ments of the UHWI’s then CEO Dr Trevor McCart­ney, which spoke to the trou­bling re­source in­ad­e­qua­cies. It is no se­cret that the hos­pi­tals coun­try­wide are woe­fully un­der-re­sourced and poorly man­aged.

The re­port is sim­ply not worth the pa­per on which it was writ­ten.

What was the ob­jec­tive of her in­ves­ti­ga­tion; to ab­solve the con­cerned of­fi­cials of the ex­ten­sive dam­age and suf­fer­ing that they caused to the par­ents of these dead ba­bies re­sult­ing from their own mis­man­age­ment? Did she ex­pect that the con­cerned staff would in­crim­i­nate them­selves?

More im­por­tantly, was in­de­pen­dent sci­en­tific ev­i­dence sought?


Neg­li­gence was demon­strated and the hospi­tal staff must be held civilly li­able. Henry failed to in­cor­po­rate the ev­i­dence of the par­ents; that which was sup­plied by the min­istry’s tech­nocrats; or any sci­en­tific ev­i­dence, which I be­lieve was rel­e­vant and sub­stan­tial to the case.

It is fit­ting to cir­cum­vent this con­tro­ver­sial mat­ter be­fore a High Court judge who is ob­jec­tive, bal­anced, who pos­sess crit­i­cal rea­son­ing skills, and who pays at­ten­tion to de­tail; char­ac­ter­is­tics which Henry lacked in her de­ter­mi­na­tion of this mat­ter.

What about the dead ba­bies at the Corn­wall Re­gional Hospi­tal, or has she ap­plied her generic (anec­do­tal) ap­proach to those in­di­vid­ual cases as well?

Henry’s want­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion and mis­guided de­ter­mi­na­tion are dam­ag­ing to the in­tegrity of her of­fice; it must be vig­or­ously re­viewed and chal­lenged. DUJON RUS­SELL dujon.rus­sell@ya­

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