Babies’ parents ask NWRHA for US$55k for private probe into deaths

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Makeda Roberts and her newborn baby boy, Ekon Marcelle in 2022. –

Lawyers for the parents of babies who died after a bacterial outbreak at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) are asking the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) for US $55,000 to hire foreign doctors to review the babies’ medical notes.

The demand was made in a letter from attorney Sue Ann Deosaran of Freedom Law Chambers.

Deosaran confirmed receipt of medical records and notes for 11 of 18 babies who died at the NICU.

She said many of the babies’ parents come from “lower grounds” of the socio-economic ladder and after exhausting their savings in medical fees, medication and funeral expenses, now “cannot afford to retain independent doctors to review and analyse the medical notes and records provided.”

The families asked the NWRHA to agree to pay the fees for a specialist to review and analyse the medical notes and prepare a report to advise whether the treatment and standard of care fell below what was reasonable and acceptable.

Deosaran said local doctors have told them they are conflicted and unable to accept the job.

“They have all indicated that they cannot assist because they are either employed with the RHA’s or have to interact with the State in the practice of their profession.

“We have, however, reached out to international experts who have quoted us a discounted fee of US$5,000 per baby and we therefore ask that the NWRHA assume liability for paying these fees.”

Deosaran also expressed “the deep concern” of the parents over the ministry’s failure to invite them to attend a media tour of the NICU scheduled for noon on Thursday.

“It is strange to say the least, that none of our clients whose babies died at the NICU, were invited to be part of this tour so that there could be some realistic balance to this one-sided event.”

The letter posed several questions to the NWRHA, including the purpose of the tour, and why the minister “took so long to invite the media to tour the NICU.”

It said the parents were sceptical and alleged “a mad scramble” to remove broken equipment and sanitise the haematology lab before the PAHO investigators could view it.

It also asked, “Why were the parents of the dead babies not invited to ensure that this was simply not a public relations stunt that was designed to do political damage control by giving a biased view about the state and standard of care at the NICU?”

The letter noted the “mandatory dress code guidelines” for media personnel, which it claimed medical staff at the NICU did not observe.

“It is unfortunate that the medical staff that was in charge of our clients’ babies did not comply with these rules that were observed more in breach than in actual practice.

The lawyers described the investigation as a “pappyshow” and called for the NWRHA to treat the parents “with some modicum of respect.”

“It would appear that the NWRHA and the Ministry of Health (MoH) plans to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of our clients’ babies without any form of consultation and participation from them.

“Their request to have an independent representative on the investigating team has been inexplicably denied and they have been relegated to the periphery where they are treated as mere spectators.”

NWRHA faces another lawsuit

The demands were made in a pre-action protocol letter from Dave Marcelle, 46, and Makeda Roberts, 41, whose baby died in 2022.

The parents, both police officers, are alleging medical negligence by the NWRHA.

The letter said Roberts went to a pre-natal clinic appointment at the PoSGH on March 31, 2022, where she told the doctor “something was not feeling right” in her womb.

She said her concerns were dismissed as something “normal,” with the doctor then saying, “Well to please yuh mind, let we run some tests then.”

The next day, Roberts received a call from the PoSGH telling her she needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible for her scheduled C-section.

The couple rushed to the PoSGH but when they arrived were told by a doctor, “Dey make ah mistake and mix up yuh records with another patient’s own. I doh know what to say and I doh know what does be going on in here.”

The letter claimed the doctor explained that Roberts’s vital information and test results had been erroneously combined with another patient’s file and the error was only found on that date.

Roberts became anxious, deeply unsettled and extremely worried about the mix-up. That prompted her to question the duration of time she had unknowingly been treated according to another patient’s plan.

While reviewing her test results, the doctors recognised she urgently needed a C-section.

When she asked whether she was being treated wrongly in light of the medical-records mix-up, Roberts described the nurses’ response as hostile, hoggish and totally unprofessional.

One nurse said, “Is not a big deal, doh worry, ent we sorting yuh out now? Waiz yuh problem?!”

Her baby Ekon Marcelle was born April 1, at 30 weeks’ gestation, weighing 1.15 pounds, and was admitted to the PoSGH NICU for observation.

Nurses and doctors told them baby Ekon was making excellent progress and should be home in time for Roberts’s birthday in June.

Roberts said near the end of April, she noticed her baby’s abdomen was swollen and discoloured, but nurses dismissed her concerns saying “We just feed him, so he go look so… what yuh stressing for?”

After searching the internet for the symptoms, Roberts asked if baby Ekon had developed a condition known as necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) which matched his symptoms.

However, a nurse told her, “Yuh playin’ doctor?! Ent I now tell yuh we feed him?!”

On a later date, Roberts visited baby Ekon and found him lying on his stomach, crying and in a state of distress.

When she asked what was wrong with him an intern told her, “Doh worry we do a spinal tap on him earlier so he guh be a lil uneasy now… just give him some time.”

She said she was left “shocked and devastated,” as she had never been informed of the procedure and felt deeply unsettled about “critical medical decisions being made without their knowledge or consent.”

Baby Ekon’s condition began deteriorating and he was eventually diagnosed with NEC and died on June 24.

The couple say their dream of parenthood has now turned into a nightmare. Two years after his death, the nursery they built remains untouched along with all of baby Ekon’s clothes and toys, the frozen breast milk and a car seat they bought for him.

The couple said Mother’s Day and Father’s Day 2022 were their first and last time celebrating those occasions, which have “become a poignant reminder of the irreplaceable loss that now overshadowed their lives.”

They said given their ages and their “horrific experience” at PoSGH, the prospect of starting a new family feels daunting and as a result they still do not have any children.