JSC told: Tobago nurses exposing HIV patients

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Paul Richards –

STAKEHOLDERS have complained about the apparent lack of patient confidentiality within Tobago’s public health care system.

At the Fifth Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting on Social Services and Public Administration at the Scarborough Library, Tobago on June 13, Jamaican Rosemarie De Gannes claimed that the private medical records of patients are discussed among nurses and ancillary staff members at hospitals and health centres.

She believes there should be laws for breach of privacy within the sector, especially among nurses.

“My issue that I have come to realise is that because we are small (Tobago), that privacy is not paramount.

“I think there should be laws for nurses, not only for doctors, when they breach privacy because since coming here, I have been told don’t get involved with the males because they have HIV. I’ve gone to clinics and I am hearing the nurses talking and I can tell you who has HIV,” De Gannes said.

She said this should not be the case.

“I think if I come and I have a disease, it’s my story to tell, not your story to tell.

“So I don’t believe that persons who are in the medical field – unless it is to prevent the continuation of that disease, then you can have some leeway, and I think the law will permit it to some extent – but no so freely whereby your medical records are being exposed and discussed.

“Too much of people’s private information is shared without their consent and that needs to stop, especially in the health sector.”

De Gannes, who has been living in Tobago for many years, said she sometimes overhears conversations about the medical status of patients, not from doctors but from nurses.

“Many times, the nurses are there and you have cleaners privy to the information because they are moving up and down and they are having a running discourse. It should not be so.”

In an earlier contribution, resident Claudia Robinson-David also said measures must be taken to protect the confidentiality of patients.

Robinson-David said while she was in the US in 2021, her husband told her that he had to go to the Scarborough General Hospital to do a covid19 test and, afterwards, a biopsy.

She said her husband did the covid19 test on a Wednesday but that same night, she felt something was “troubling” her.

Robinson-David said she called him around 8.30 am the next day, “because I was feeling uncomfortable with him going back to that hospital.”

Her husband, she said, told her that someone had called and told him they heard he had prostate cancer.

“It was not 12 hours when he had the covid (19) test done and it was a breach of patient’s confidentiality. I told him you are not going back there. Thank God we sought medical attention elsewhere and he is in perfect health now.”

The JSC meeting was chaired by independent senator Dr Paul Richards and included members Avinash Singh and Roger Munroe.

It examined the operations of the Tobago health sector in relation to non-communicable diseases.

The health team comprised Dr Roxanne Mitchell, general manager primary care, Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA); Dr Ogonna Okeke, medical chief of staff, Scarborough Hospital; and Garth Alexander, acting CEO, TRHA.