SHATTERED by the death of her youngest daughter a month ago after she was denied access to health care at several of the island’s major hospitals, Portia Haughton wants legislation in place to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
Her call comes a day before her expected release from quarantine, a process which began on March 13 when she arrived in the island from New York — the then epicentre of the United States’s novel coronavirus outbreak.
It has been the most trying period in her life, she told the Jamaica Observer in an interview yesterday.
Her tears are never-ending and comfort eludes her, but once released Haughton said that she will attempt to pick up the pieces of her family’s broken world — caused by 23-year-old Jodian Fearon’s untimely demise — through advocacy and a fight for justice.
“I’m hoping what happened to my daughter will bring about legislative changes to the hospital system, because there’s no possible way four hospitals should have denied a pregnant mother treatment. You cannot have a society like that and it doesn’t matter the circumstances; she died because she didn’t get care,” Haughton stated.
For her, Fearon suffered a “horrific death” that she believes could have been prevented if hospital staff “did the job they signed up for”.
Fearon died on April 24 at University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) hours after giving birth to her baby girl at Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine, after a journey that saw her travelling across the Corporate Area and being denied access to health care.
She was initially suspected to have had the coronavirus, but subsequently tested negative.
According to her sister Shanice Lloyd, who had spoken to the Observer days after her death, Fearon arrived at the privately owned and operated Andrews Memorial Hospital on April 23 and was being prepared for delivery.
However, she was transferred the following morning to Spanish Town Hospital after requests for transfers to UHWI and Victoria Jubilee Hospital reportedly fell through.
It is alleged that the staff at Andrews Memorial Hospital refused to treat her, because she exhibited symptoms they felt were linked to the coronavirus. The hospital has denied this.
Following the delivery of her baby at Spanish Town Hospital, Fearon was transferred to UHWI after reportedly developing complications.
She died later that day.
“What’s so sad about this situation is that she died not having COVID-19. So just imagine the pain she went through. There must be some legislative measures in place to prevent discrimination; some measures in place to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. As a nurse or a doctor, when you choose this field you know what you’re up against. There’s no possible way you should be turning a blind eye to a sick person. You signed up for this. So I’m hoping for a change and for a law, you know, that will prevent this from happening again,” Haughton said.
“I have nieces and nephews living here. They might want to have children. We don’t know that there won’t be another pandemic. How do you deal with that? Do you just turn a blind eye to somebody that shows up who has what you believe are symptoms? Things cannot remain like this. So, I’m hoping for some legislative changes,” Haughton said.
Fearon’s death has, for the umpteenth time, cast a spotlight on the alleged mistreatment meted out to patients at several of the island’s health care facilities.
Several of the reports detailed the circumstances leading up to patients’ deaths.
On October 2, 2014, an Observer report headlined ‘Death on hospital floor’ detailed the events leading up to Jason Forbes’ death on the floor of Spanish Town Hospital. The young man was taken to the hospital after complaining about stomach pains. Before his death, his family said that he had pleaded with hospital staff for assistance. They said none was rendered.
On October 3, 2014, the Observer carried a report on a 14-year-old St Jago High School student who died at Spanish Town Hospital from what his father said were complications triggered by the chikungunya virus.
Azee Baker reportedly died without receiving treatment, as his father’s plea for assistance went unanswered.
On May 17, 2017, in an article published by the Observer under the headline ‘KPH horror’, a daughter alleged that hospital workers’ negligence and bad treatment had led to her dad’s death.
In a July 23, 2019 article a woman told the Observer that she was sent home by Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) to die.
She mentioned that a month prior, she noticed she had a limp and was unable to control the movement of her right limbs after a bout of diarrhoea and dizziness. She took her mother’s advice and rushed to the hospital.
But the 52-year-old woman’s hope of receiving a diagnosis and treatment was dashed, as she was sent back to her Stony Hill, St Andrew, home with a few tablets and no information about her condition.
She was later told by a private doctor that she had suffered a minor stroke.
KPH’s administrators said that there was no record of her visit.
Last month, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the Jamaica Constabulary Force had launched a formal investigation into Fearon’s death.
Holness, who described the matter as “most upsetting”, said preliminary reports in the public domain indicate that the duty of care owed to Fearon was not executed.
“The case must be fully investigated. Already, the police have commenced their own investigation to determine if anyone was criminally negligent,” the prime minister said then.
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