MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton is expressing concerns about existing protocols employed by public and private health facilities with regards to the transfer of patients between hospitals.
The issue was raised at last evening’s COVID-19 digital press conference from the Ministry of Health and Wellness and followed media reports about the death of 23-year-old Jodian Fearon, who died after being denied access to health care last week.
Dr Tufton on Tuesday effectively cleared Victoria Jubilee and the Spanish Town hospitals of any foul-up in the activities preceding Fearon’s death. He later added that the report suggested that the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) also followed protocol.
In his statement to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Tufton said that the initial assessment of the administrative review conducted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness is that “both the Victoria Jubilee Hospital and the Spanish Town Hospital adhered to the established procedures as it relates to the transfer of patients from private facilities”.
Yesterday, he remarked that there are “other lingering concerns” as it relates to the existing protocols established by his ministry.
“I’m concerned to ensure that the protocols are, in fact, the most efficient and to the extent that they could have avoided a situation like this from occurring; I’d like to be convinced of that, and I’ve said that internally that we need to look at that,” Tufton stated.
Fearon died at UHWI late Friday after being transferred from Spanish Town Hospital, where she had delivered her first child.
The Jamaica Observer was told by Fearon’s sister Shanice Lloyd that she had registered with the privately run Andrews Memorial Hospital in St Andrew for maternity care, but was transferred to Spanish Town after she was believed to have contracted the novel coronavirus.
This was after requests for her to be transferred to UHWI and Victoria Jubilee had been reportedly denied.
Reports are that she developed complications after giving birth and had to be transferred.
It was later confirmed that she tested negative for the virus.
“I am concerned about, and increasingly so, the operations of private hospitals. I’ve not made a big issue of it, but I’ve asked for a report on what are the sort of requirements, protocols of how a private entity operates, because I do think that the time may be now for us to have a stronger regulatory framework in terms of what is required to establish a hospital.
“Now, I’m saying that without casting any blame on the particular institution, because I don’t have all the information, but the truth is, part of my request for information is to get information from an entity that I do not have control over, which is the Andrews Memorial Hospital, and it does — even though I’ve had an account that was made public through a statement — create a level of incompleteness that I would prefer to have had greater authority to request or to require. And, as a consequence I think there’s going to be a need, I think, in my view, to relook at that,” the minister explained.
The post-mortem for Fearon revealed that the first-time mother died of heart failure.
The medical examination, which was conducted yesterday, had been delayed due to the non-submission of dockets from two hospitals, family attorney Isat Buchanan told the Observer.
“The medical reports from Andrews [Memorial Hospital] and Spanish Town Hospital arrived, [but] there was an issue as to whether or not Dr [Jephthah] Ford was going to be allowed to view the reports. The position of the leading pathologist was that he was not allowed to view it pursuant to a letter attached from Andrews Hospital. He called me and I came to the University [Hospital of the West Indies] to enquire why we were not allowed to peruse the documents before the commencement of the post-mortem, and that it was further frustrating the process,” Buchanan said.
Ford is the family’s doctor.
The attorney said his team was told that the information was confidential and that allowing them to view the documents would be a breach of Fearon’s privacy.
“I indicated to the pathologist that the confidentiality and the privilege belong to Ms Fearon, and that we are her representatives, and as such Dr Ford ought to be given access to the reports. He was later allowed and he reviewed the documents, and the post-mortem [was completed],” he said, adding that upon reviewing the documents he has concluded that Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher was ill-advised.
“I’m inviting him to reinvestigate before he maintains the position that all the hospitals are cleared, certainly in relation to Spanish Town Hospital,” he added.
In response, the minister said that he has confidence in the teams that he asked to generate the reports.
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