August 11, 2020

Jamaica: Health Ministry launches probe following woman’s death after giving birth


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From Jamaica Gleaner

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton says an investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the death a woman, who reportedly had flu-like symptoms while in labour, and was denied treatment at more than one hospital.

She died shortly after giving birth.

In a post on Twitter, Tufton said he was deeply saddened by the woman’s death and regrets the situation. He said no one should be denied access to health care. 

“I have asked for a thorough investigation to take place, and as soon as the results are available, which I hope is very soon, we will make the information public,” he said in a video. 

The woman, according to Tufton, gave birth at the Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine after initially attempting to access care at the Andrew’s Memorial Hospital. She was eventually transferred to The University Hospital of the West Indies, where she died. 

Tufton said the ministry will be providing the necessary support to the woman’s new born child, who is stable in hospital. Counselling will also be provided to the family. 

“I deeply regret this situation and as soon as information is available we will make the information available to the public,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the woman’s doctor, Dr Lloyd Goldson, confirmed that test results showed that his patient tested negative for COVID-19, although he cautioned that  in some cases results can be negative in persons with the disease. He was speaking to The Gleaner’s sister station, RJR 94 FM. 

Need for protocol

Dr Goldson said although the consideration had not entered his mind, he said hospitals may have been alarmed by his patient’s symptoms. 

However, he said the situation underscores the need for the establishment of a protocol, as a similar situation could re-emerge and patients should not be turned away.    

Opposition Spokesman on Health, Dr Morais Guy made a similar call. In a release, he said the existing protocol needs review. 

“The refusal of admission of this patient, because of lack of preparedness for COVID-19, the fear of contracting the disease, or lack of space to a mother in active labour is unacceptable,” the opposition spokesman said.

“The Jamaican people need to be assured that our hospitals can treat with their emergencies, even in the face of the coronavirus epidemic. For months, the Minister of Health and Wellness has been saying, we are ready. If we are ready, this situation should not have occurred,” Guy said. 

He called the situation “disgraceful” and said there is need for accountability. 

Concerns about preparedness of hospitals

Guy said, while smaller, Type C hospitals may have challenges with ward arrangements, Type B hospitals are expected to be better prepared. 

“There seems to be total confusion in the system in terms of the measures in place to deal with COVID 19,” he said.

The Opposition Spokesman on Health said the government also needs to immediately review public health facilities to ensure that adequate space for isolation is in place and that the required personal protective equipment is available to all front-line workers. 

He said given the high calibre of health care practitioners in Jamaica, any refusal to see a patient underscores that there are other factors at play.  

“As a people, whilst understanding that we live in unprecedented times and facing many unknown challenges related to COVID -19, we cannot allow those fears to allow our humanity as well as our compassion for others to fail us,” Guy said.

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