Parents: We won’t let Yusraa’s death be swept under a rug

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The main Entrance to the Port of Spain General Hospital –

FREEDOM Law Chambers has issued another pre-action protocol letter to the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA), on behalf of the mother of an infant who died in the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

The letter, from instructing attorney Sue-Ann Deosaran, said it was sent on behalf of Rae-Ann Francis and her deceased daughter Yusraa Assing, who died on April 22, 2024. Francis is claiming medical negligence.

It said Francis gave birth to Yusraa via an emergency Caesarean section on February 28. The baby weighed 2 lbs 14 oz (1,300 g) at birth and was pre-term at 29 weeks two days. The baby was sent to the NICU and placed in the ventilator for breathing support out of an abundance of caution. She was moved to the step down section of the NICU around March 15.

The letter said Francis observed a woman visiting her baby around April 5, at which point the doctors and nurses became very cautious and began wearing gloves and gowns. She spoke to the woman, who had been told her child had regressed severely and was being moved from the step down area to the intensive care area, as the baby was battling a serious infection. Francis realised her baby might be in danger of catching the infection.

On April 8, Francis was told she had to buy an $800 blood filter, which was then used on Yusraa. The next day she rapidly deteriorated in health, as she was barely moving, had stopped breathing, and flatlined at a point.

“The doctors informed our client that they suspected the baby had pneumonia but would have to do blood cultures to ascertain whether an infection was present. A few days later the cultures confirmed the presence of Klebsiella pneumoniae. The doctors tried treating the infection with several different antibiotics, but the baby did not respond positively to any.”

On April 12, Francis was informed by the doctors at the NICU that her baby’s condition was worsening but that they had managed to stabilise her. Following this point, she never saw the woman or her baby again.

From April 13-21, the baby’s health took a sharp turn for the worse. On April 21, she was placed back on the ventilator with the oxygen level set to the highest. Despite this effort, the baby’s condition worsened, leading to multiple instances of flatlining and the administration of adrenaline shots from 6.30 pm until 2 am on April 22. At approximately 2.11 am Francis and Yusraa’s father Omri Assing received a phone call that their baby had died at around 2.07 am.

The cause of death on the death certificate was listed as “intraventricular haemorrhage presumed sepsis under evaluation prematurity.”

The letter said, “Upon seeing the recent news regarding the death of several other babies at the PoSGH NICU, both our client and her husband are very concerned about the circumstances that surround baby Yusraa’s death. Our client’s desire for justice goes beyond personal closure and she and her husband want to prevent other parents from enduring a similar fate.

“The brokenness of the public healthcare system, where the death of their daughter was not properly addressed, fuels their determination to hold the NWRHA accountable for its negligence. Our client and her husband refuse to let their baby’s death be swept under a rug.”

The letter said the staff and/or agents of the NWRHA were negligent in that they permitted another baby with a serious infection to be admitted without taking the necessary precautions to manage and minimise the risk of infection and transmission to other babies in the NICU; failed to provide a clean, safe, and sanitised environment in the NICU; failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that the NICU was bacteria-free knowing that only high-risk babies are admitted there; failed to properly adhere to and maintain industry standards of a NICU unit; failed to recognise that a baby with an infection was in the NICU and it ought to have been adequately sanitised; failed in all circumstances to protect a delicate newborn baby; and in the circumstances, failed to prevent the death of baby Yusraa Assing.