PM: No stone will be left unturned in probe into babies’ deaths

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, second from right, cuts the ribbon with Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, centre, MP for Toco/ Sangre Grande Roger Monroe, right, and other officials at the opening ceremony of the Sangre Grande Hospital Campus, Ojoe Road, Sangre Grande on Wednesday. – Faith Ayoung

The Prime Minister has said no stone will be left unturned as investigations begin into the deaths of eight babies at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH).

Speaking at the new Sangre Grande Hospital campus on April 17 on Ojoe Road, Sangre Grande, Dr Rowley said he brought with him the sadness of eight families.

He said instead of enjoying the tremendous happiness of newborns and the joy they bring to families, as a nation we must now face the reality that some kind of accident at one of our main hospitals resulted in the death of eight babies due to what “appears” to be an accident or shortcoming.

“This puts a burden of sadness over TT.”

The PM criticised people, without calling any names, who he said were using the tragic incident as an opportunity to play the blame game.

He said he “simply” wanted to know what happened at the PoSGH. Rowley said it was easy to say things not supported by facts, calling it the “easy way out,” but stressed that facts were needed and not speculation.

He said knowing what transpired could only make the health system “do and be better.” Rowley said there were processes to be followed when incidents occured, and urged the public to allow the investigation to take place.

Rowley said the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) would launch an independent investigation into the deaths and he was looking forward to its findings.

On Tuesday in the Senate, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said PAHO’s investigation would be determined by the information provided to it by the ministry and the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA).

On Wednesday, Rowley reiterated that government wanted to ensure it was treating with the facts of the investigation and described the entire incident as “very painful.”

Sharing a personal memory, Rowley said he “happens to know what goes on at the PoSGH neonatal care division very well,” lamenting a time when, every evening at 4 pm, he visited the unit expecting to be told his firstborn daughter would not be alive.

“She was born at seven months and weighed three and a half pounds.

“It was the outstanding health-care delivery in PoSGH that has caused me to be the happiest father in the country today.”

Rowley said it was easy for the country to put the health-care system down, but urged the country to first give the system a chance to find out what went wrong and commit to rectifying the issue.

“Health has always been a priority for this government. Hospitals do not guarantee health-care delivery, it is what goes on inside the facility that determines the quality of health-care.”

On Sunday, Newsday reported relatives of seven babies who died at the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) between April 4 and 7 had initiated legal action against the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA), citing medical negligence. They are being represented by Anand Ramlogan.

The pre-action protocol letter alleges a baby with a serious viral infection was transferred from a private medical facility to the NICU “with no precautions taken to isolate the other babies from the risk of infection.”

The letter said its clients observed medical staff not sanitising and washing their hands as they were being asked to do.

The letter was sent on behalf of Shaniya Raymond-Adams, Natasha Samuel, Shaquille Harry, Danyelle Samaroo, Tinelle Saunders, Jodie Molino and Shirese Moore-Beckles to the NWRHA’s CEO, Anthony Blake, claiming “an unprecedented class action claim for medical negligence based on the mass death of seven innocent babies at the PoSGH.”

They are requesting full disclosure of the number of babies who have died at the hospital from January 1 to present and are asking for the records to be e-mailed to them by no later than April 15 at 4 pm.

Two more pre-action protocol letters have since been sent to the NWRHA. So far it has been revealed that eleven babies have died owing to bacterial infection at the PoSGH’s NICU since February.