As promised we herewith update you on the latest developments in this ongoing saga which is not going away any time soon… like Sept Blatter, the disgraced head of FIFA. The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) has sent out demand letters wanting to extract their “pound of flesh” despite the loss of babies in their care. Talk about insensitivity …. or is it plain “callousness”?
Permanent Secretary Apologizes
Dr. Kevin Harvey, Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Health has apologized for the deaths of 19 babies from bacteria in state care in two of our premier health facilities UHWI Mona, St. Andrew and Cornwall Regional Hospital, Montego Bay, St. James, Jamaica W. I.
The PS was breaking his deafening silence since the newly appointed Health Minister Horace Dally took up office after PM ordered the release of the closely guarded Audit Report into hospitals requested by Dr. Fenton Ferguson, then Healthcare Minister. “I apologize for the deaths … no doctor wants to lose any of his patients …” he publicly declared at a hastily convened press conference in an apparent reaction to the two public demonstrations on the 19 dead babies scandal.
In the meantime lawyer Mark Ramsey representing 3 mothers of 19 dead babies declared that there is ample evidence to support claim for compensation and also that statements and actions taken since the scandal broke, points to not only corrective actions to remedy breaches but the admittance of liability… He cited examples as: new hand washing machine installed, hospital CEO resigned, the board asked to resign, minister relieved of his position to name a few.
He further hinted at court action but did not elaborate. He acknowledged that the hospital was demanding “hundreds of thousands of dollars for unpaid bills from mothers of dead babies … one of the mothers has health insurance”, the lawyer asserted. He read from victim statements, one such said inter alia “l miss my child every day …” it was a very touching declaration.
UHWI Demand Letter
The UHWI in a letter refuted claims of liability for at least 2 of the deaths, and demanded payment for bills incurred while in hospital. One mother who is unrelated to the incident openly wept but refused to be photographed. “I am a mother and a grand mother, I am broken ….” as she was inconsolable … tears washed her face like the world class Niagra Falls would.
The newly appointed board chairman James Moss-Solomon also spoke, he said “the UHWI (hospital’s) budget was 8.2 bil J$ annually and there is a shortfall …it would require some 1.4 bil J$ to upgrade the hospital to what it should have been in 2005. Jamaica bears the brunt of the operating cost for running the regional teaching facility … patients owed some J$ 1.2 billion which could help to buy much needed equipment … about J$ 400 million is written off each month for patients” the chairman gave further details later, in a radio interview. “I have no donors but the private sector will be approached … I will also approach first world countries who have been recruiting our nurses. The Government has promised a further J$ 400 mil from the national budget” he candidly asserted in his public appeal.
These latest developments and disclosures come at a time when Jamaica is on election watch.
By Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie, (SIC) Senior International Correspondent & photojournalist,
reporting from the cool hills of Stony Hill, St. Andrew, Jamaica W. I. for Vision Newspaper Canada.