Parents want expert to join probe into babies’ deaths

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Shaniya Raymond-Adams and Kerron Charles, the parents of deceased baby Kae’ Jhene Kerniah Charles, mourn over her body at the Port of Spain General Hospital. Their baby was one of seven who died between April 4-9 at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. –

THE parents of the babies who died of a bacterial infection at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the Port of Spain General Hospital between April 4-9 have called for their own representative to be part of investigations into the deaths of their infants.

Their call was contained in a signed pre-action protocol letter dated April 20 from Freedom Law Chambers to North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) CEO Anthony Blake.

The letter was signed by attorney Sue Ann Deosaran.

She noted the NWRHA’s decision last week to send the head of its Infection Prevention and Control Unit, Dr Darrel Jones on administrative leave.

“Our clients consider this belated move to be nothing more than a token gesture that came as a result of mounting public pressure due to public outrage and anger.”

Deosaran said it was obvious that certain people should have been immediately suspended once an investigation into this matter was announced.

She claimed, “Instead, the investigation was announced and the main protagonists were all allowed to remain on duty whilst the medical notes were being suppressed thereby providing them with access, opportunity and motive to fraudulently tamper with these records before the investigation could even start.”

While Blake has publicly given the assurance there will be a transparent, fair and independent investigation, Deosaran said, “This is precisely why our clients do not consider that this a genuine and meaningful attempt to have a fair, transparent and independent investigation.”

She claimed the NWRHA has hinted there could be further suspensions and staff have been approached by their superiors “with a view to pressuring and influencing them to sing from the same hymn book in giving statements to the investigators.”

Deosaran said, “Some of these concerned members of staff have reached out to certain persons because they fear they will be victimised and oppressed if they speak the truth.”

She expressed concern that the NWRHA seems to be conveniently sidestepping issues in the hope that they will go away.

Deosaran reiterated that parents have not been consulted about the proposed investigation into their babies’ deaths.

This, she continued, includes the time frame for the investigation, its terms and reference and a commitment to make the final report public.

Against this background, she said, “They wish to have an independent expert of their own in the control of infectious diseases appointed as part of the investigating team at the cost of the NWRHA. “

The NWRHA was asked to give its position on this request.

Deosaran said the parents are concerned with possible tampering of the babies’ death certificates.

“We demand an urgent explanation from you as to why on the death certificate for baby Skiye Samuel, the cause of death was changed from ‘sepsis’ to ‘presumed sepsis’.”

Deosaran said there has been no response from NWRHA to correspondence, asking why Samuel’s medical records have not been released.

She referred to a public commitment made by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh in the Senate on April 16 that the babies’ medical records would be provided to their parents by April 17 at the latest.

The letter showed the receipt of medical records for Amelia Williams, Esme Molino, Aarya Raya Chattergoon, Kae’ Jhene Kerniah Charles, Crystell Precious Miracle and Romani Williams on April 19.

The size of those records ranges from 47 to 286 pages.

Concerning Romani Williams, Deosaran said his mother Shaquille Harry was told by medical personnel that he would be placed in an isolation room to prevent the spread of bacteria to the other babies in the NICU.

But she added, “There was, however, another baby already in the isolation room which, we are instructed is a baby that was transferred from a private nursing home in a highly infectious state.”

Deosaran said when Harry visited Romani on April 6, she was told that she needed to buy a blood filter which was only available at Southern Medical Centre in San Fernando because the blood bank did not have any.

Harry, she said, was told by a female doctor at the hospital, that there were many things they needed as doctors that they did not have and it was not their fault.

At 10.10 pm on the same day, Romani’s parents were told that he died at 9.24 pm.

Deosaran said they cried endlessly for Romani who they believed was not given a fair chance because “something went wrong”.

She added, “They were aware that there was an infection of some sort in the ward, however, what they did not know was that babies died before and after their baby, from the same bacteria. To them, it was unbelievable because their baby was doing fine and progressing nicely.”

Deosaran referred to a statement from a private medical institution about the circumstances in which it transferred a baby that was suffering from an infection from its facility to the PoSGH.

Newsday checked the centre’s Facebook and Instagram accounts but did not find this statement.

She asked whether staff and/or agents of the NWRHA were negligent concerning the babies’ deaths by admitting this baby into the hospital.

Deosaran identified failure to provide a clean, safe and sanitised environment in the NICU; failure to protect a delicate newborn baby and admitting another baby with a serious infection without taking precautions to manage and minimise the risk of infection and transmission to other babies in the NICU, as possible evidence of medical negligence.

She concluded by advising Blake that failure to reply to this letter within one week, will see legal action being initiated against the NWRHA.

Deosaran said the court can also impose sanctions against the NWRHA for failing to comply with the pre-action protocol letter.