Kamla: Independent expert must probe babies’ deaths

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Kamla Persad-Bissessar –

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is demanding an independent expert as part of a probe into the deaths of seven babies between April 4 and 9 at the Port of Spain General Hospital. The babies died in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) from a bacterial infection.

Persad-Bissessar’s demand comes in the aftermath of Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh’s ruling out the involvement of any other investigator in an internal enquiry to be undertaken by the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA).

In addition, a three-man team from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) arrived in TT on Monday to conduct its own investigation into the incident.

In the Senate on Monday, Deyalsingh said he was advised the NWRHA’s investigation was proceeding according to established procedures and there was no room for external participation.

Addressing a political meeting of the United National Congress (UNC) in Princes Town on Monday night, Persad-Bissessar said having an independent expert sit on the investigation was among items in the pre-action protocol letters sent to the health authorities by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, acting on behalf of the grieving parents.

“Now Government is saying they don’t need an external expert into the investigations into these deaths. Why? Why?” she asked. “What’s wrong with that? We have competent people here.”

She said it was important for an external expert in the public interest, since Deyalsingh could “hand-pick and select your puppets to come out with what you want.”

She dubbed Deyalsingh “Minister of Death” over the tragedy of seven premature babies who died from bacterial infections, as well as four other newborns who also died at the hospital since February. A twelfth baby died at the NICU on the morning of April 22.

Persad-Bissessar said she was pained by the deaths, and the country was patiently waiting for the truth as the authorities were warned about the devastation of the public health-care system by doctors in her party.

“Now look at the horror we have faced in the past week because they sat down and knew babies were dying and did absolutely nothing. That is criminal negligence.”

Commending UNC loyalists who protested outside the Couva Children’s Hospital last Saturday, Persad-Bissessar again took aim at Deyalsingh for refusing to open that facility, commissioned and constructed under her People’s Partnership government.

She tried to rationalise the closure of the $2 billion state-of-the-art facility while children were left to die, “out of sheer spite and malice,” she charged, because it was constructed under her administration.

Deyalsingh again confirmed on Monday at a news conference that the Couva hospital was functioning, spelling out some of the services being offered.

But Persad-Bissessar countered, “For years they have continued to prevent children from accessing the Children’s Life Fund. Parents have gone back to barbecues and begging for help.

“But this Government has millions for Faris (Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi) rent and contracts for ministers’ wives.

“This evil Government can no longer make an excuse for delaying the opening of the Couva Children’s Hospital.”