In a media conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves lauded a recently launched charter of patients’ rights and responsibilities as one of the hallmarks of his government’s commitment in the delivery of top quality health care to Vincentians. Dr Gonsalves prefaced his remarks with reference to the suspicious death of Pole Yard resident Arnott Hope. Who died on December 28th after undergoing surgery at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

According to the account of the circumstances surrounding Hope’s death as reported on “Hope was shot in the groin in his yard last Friday afternoon, underwent surgery and by Sunday he was dead – but allegedly not [as] a direct result of the gunshot wounds.

It is alleged that a ‘forcep’ used in the surgery was left inside him after he was stitched up.

It is alleged that the instrument was discovered missing after a check-off on instruments used in the surgery found that one was missing. It is understood that an alarm was raised and the belief expressed that the instrument was sewn up inside the patient but nothing was done.

However, the following day, Saturday, Hope was taken for [an] x-ray which revealed the instrument inside. During interviews on Tuesday, some of Hope’s family members were questioned about the ‘forceps’ having allegedly been stitched up in him.

They were, however, unable to confirm it even though they spoke of having heard the allegation.”

Dr. Gonsalves continued to share with his Vincentian constituents “there’s no suggestion that there was any negligence but because of certain circumstances I’d spoken to the Chief Medical Officer and ask that she discusses the matter properly among the professionals and the ministry and the services of a professor of surgery from the region has been engaged. There’s a terms of reference as to this patient from the time he entered to the time he was treated.”

During the open floor session of the Prime Minister’s media briefing he provided further clarity as to the independent review to be conducted into Hope’s demise. The incoming independent reveiw specialist is a Trinidadian named Professor Naraynsingh, Dr Gonsalves said.

When asked to clarify his assertion that there was no suggestion of negligence in an as yet independently assessed issue the Prime Minister responded “no suggestion by those in the medical system who spoke to me but it was, it’s important given what was said to me that I asked for a full report and when I read the report I raised the question as to whether or not this patient received the optimal care from the time the patient arrived to the moment of his demise and that those answers, the answer to that question can only come through an independent review because from the reports I saw when I posed the question it wasn’t clear to me reading it. I’m not a medical doctor and the view was expressed to me that okay they would get an independent person to do a review so there’s no, there’s no – I can’t make a suggestion that at any stage there was any negligence and that suggestion is not being made.”

Prime Minister Gonsalves, who is currently seeking an unprecedented fifth five year term in office, made mention of the presence of a “health ombudsman” in countries other than SVG even as he explained how an independent review is triggered in cases of malpractice in the local health services.
Asked “Do we wait for the Prime Minister to instigate investigations?”

“…No, no, no, it doesn’t – inside – I have been advised that there have been, from time to time internal reviews. This is not the first time that I have asked for a report on a particular case… If I get a case where the, and I see an internal report and I read it, I’m not a medical doctor but I read it and I say it’s there’s more here than what I’m reading and I asked the question. I’m not the one who gets involved, I don’t get involved in selecting a person or whether an external review is to be done. All I remind everybody that we proclaimed a Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities for a purpose. It must have meaning. It must have life,” PM Gonsalves responded.

A cursory Google search revealed only media reports heralding the advent of the Charter’s October 2019 launch. With the exception of one periodical which shared excerpts of the Charter’s tenets. A comprehensive copy is not readily available online.

Twenty one (21) clinics of the thirty four (34) listed in Flow’s 2018/2019 national telephone directory were called in an attempt to verify whether or not personnel were aware of the Charter and whether said Charter is being publicly displayed. Fourteen (14) Staff Nurses admitted to not having a copy, two Staff Nurses opted to defer the question to their supervisor (whose number seemed to be perpetually busy), there was no response at two (2) clinics while another two Staff Nurses claimed to have a copy of the Charter. One of these Staff Nurses however confessed her ignorance as to the Charter’s content and another clinic was “supposed to have one” though the Staff Nurse there is still unfamiliar with it.

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