|Category: Health Care
||27 Mar 11
Dear Dr Shehenaz Mohammed, general secretary of the Medical
Professionals Association of T&T (MPATT), Words fail me. After 15 years of
writing this column, words fail me. A burden...because the truth is as
glaring as the midday sun. But silence is deadlier. Yet I have to write, to
give a voice to those dead at the hands of health professionals—for Chrystal
Boodoo-Ramsoomair, the 29-year-old mother who should be nursing her newborn,
playing with her two older children, but lies dead on a cold slab because a
house officer, reportedly with no supervision from a senior doctor,
conducted her routine Caesarean section after which Ramsoomair reportedly
bled to death on March 4 at the San Fernando General Hospital. Ramsoomair
was not, it is reported, a high risk case. She only became high risk in the
face of incompetence. I write with a heavy heart for 25-year-old Nekisha
Caine (dead from choking on her own vomit) and her unborn baby in the
Port-of-Spain General Hospital. I write for the teenage boy who died last
year waiting to be treated for dengue, for the dozens and dozens of grieving
relatives and loved ones. I write for the victims among us waiting to
I write for the scores of rich
and poor, in public and health institutions who have just had to lump it.
To shut their mouths, bury their dead and swallow the poison of neglect
administered to them by our health professionals with no recourse available
to them. We don’t have a tradition of litigation, the complaint system is
opaque, doctors are reluctant to testify against colleagues, so
“investigations” go nowhere. I write for Jerome, built like a footballer,
dead at 20, whose mother came to me 11 years back, claiming her son died
because he wasn’t given oxygen on time. She came to me along with a dozen
others whose stories I have relayed on these pages over the years, because
like us all, she had nowhere else to go.
She, like Nekeisha’s mother
(who buried her daughter and unborn grandchild four months back) was daunted
by a solid wall of men and women in white, who instead of using the power
conferred to them with medical knowledge responsibly, discharge it with an
unrepentant arrogance all the more repulsive because like bullies, they are
kicking us hard in the teeth when we at our most helpless: ill, afraid,
weak, frail, knocked out in a theatre, fighting for our lives, giving birth,
or outside, in waiting rooms, a quavering mess, abject sycophants, begging
you doctors to save the lives of our children, wives, husbands, parents,
There are many exceptions, the
doctors and nurses who refused to support your “action” on Blackout Monday,”
brilliant doctors who I have personally met who discharge their duties with
humanity and diligence and do not see their knowledge as a source of power,
but a vocation. I am not writing of them now. I am writing of the ones
responsible for negligent deaths who are hiding behind your skirts now, the
ones who support this system of unaccountability.
Were you and your lot of
medical supporters required to take the Hyppocratic oath that dates to the
5th century BC? The promise to do no harm... I quote: “I will prescribe
regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment
and never do harm to anyone. And...I will not cut for stone, even for
patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be
performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.” I think of us all, now
held hostage by bloody minded (that phrase was never so apt) medical
“professionals” so arrogant, so full of hubris, so enraged at being called
to account for the death of a young woman, during a routine C-section that
they do the following.
Boycott the inquiry set up by the Health Minister into Ramsoomair’s
death, claiming “major breaches” (and what of breaches of procedure that
Bring surgeries at the San
Fernando General Hospital to a standstill (“indefinite hold”) by
withholding services under the deliberately obtuse and insulting guise
of being “fearful” (where was your ‘fear’ when you got a house officer
to perform Ramsoomair’s surgery, or allowed pregnant Caine to choke on
her own vomit.) Instead of repenting, learning from your mistakes, you
are making sick people wait for surgeries to teach patients, the Health
Ministry, everyone a sound lesson.
Effectively, by refusing to do
surgeries you hold a gun to the head of the Minister of Health to get her to
back down on an independent inquiry, replacing it by one “constituted by the
RHA.” Are we speaking of the same RHA that for the last four months failed
to contact the parents of Nekisha Caine who died at childbirth even after
taking responsibility for their deaths. Why are you afraid of an
independent inquiry? Let’s not open that Pandora’s box.
Finally, I can barely breathe
when I think of the pugnacious denial of responsibility by you, Dr Shehenaz
Mohammed, even in the face of the autopsy results that reveal that two of
Ramsoomair’s arteries were severed. So what happened? A Martian severed
those arteries and left no trace for the doctors who attended to her. The
autopsy is flawed? What? I have a few questions of my own. I asked them of
the Medical Board and Medical Association 11 years ago. Today, I ask this
• What is the complaints
procedure at the RHA’s?
• How many complaints have you
processed in the past three years?
• What penalties are given to
health professionals for malpractice/negligence?
• Do you have a code of ethics
• Do you have a bill of rights
• Are doctors and patients
aware of these?
• How many malpractice suits
have you had over the years?
The ill, vulnerable, helpless
people of this country look forward to your response.
To Health Minister Therese
Baptiste-Cornelis, the country salutes you for trying to get an independent
inquiry going. Madam, do not be intimidated by MPATT. Push for an
independent inquiry. Put together an independent Malpractice Board. Appoint
a Medical Ombudsman, and get a Data Bank on doctors.
Stop the butchery now Madam
Minister. Stop the deathly silence.