THE lawyer for the family of Jodian Fearon, the 23-year-old mother who died on Friday after being denied access to health care at several of the country’s core hospitals, is demanding that the final report from the administrative review conducted recently be handed over to the family.
“I’ve heard the minister, and the family is not in a position to take comfort in anything that the minister has said because he has not disclosed those documents to us. So we are asking for full disclosure of all the documents that he was privy to, to be able to take that position and that stance on the matter,” Isat Buchanan, attorney representing Fearon’s family, told the Jamaica Observer in an interview yesterday, following a statement in Parliament from Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton on the matter.
Dr Tufton yesterday effectively cleared Victoria Jubilee and the Spanish Town hospitals of any foul-up in the activities preceding Fearon’s death that have sparked public outrage.
In his statement to the House of Representatives, 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”.
Fearon, who would have turned 24 yesterday, died at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) late Friday after being transferred from Spanish Town Hospital, where she had delivered her first child.
The 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 disease (COVID-19).
This was after requests for her to be transferred to UHWI and Victoria Jubilee were reportedly denied.
Fearon is said to have developed complications after giving birth and was later transferred to UHWI.
“The implication of that is to say that if they are cleared, and he has not said anything about UHWI and Andrews in light of all the information that he has. He needs to make that clear. We are simply saying, can we get disclosure in light of what the prime minister said [that] nothing will be swept under the rug and everything will be done with transparency,” Buchanan charged.
“So, because the attorney is not privy to what he is, I am asking him, in keeping with the prime minister’s mandate, to disclose the document. Does he have any objection to disclose the documents to the family so that we can take comfort in the information and the position he’s taken regarding the hospitals?” the attorney asked. “We want to know what protocol he is saying that they followed.”
The minister had suggested that the two hospitals followed the protocols set out by the health and wellness ministry to provide for the best outcome for both patients and staff.
“It is to be noted that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has put in place at hospitals all across the island an increased capacity to manage suspected cases of COVID-19. However, each hospital has a limit on how many patients it can accommodate, and when one hospital is full there are protocols in place that allow for transfers,” the health minister said.
Fearon’s test result, however, revealed that she did not have the virus.
The police have since launched a criminal investigation into the matter and Tufton said that the ministry will be cooperating.
Said Tufton: “The Ministry of Health and Wellness will be complying, in full, with the team from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and will be providing all documents related to this matter to advance the investigation and the proffering of charges as may be deemed necessary.”
Fearon’s autopsy, which was initially scheduled for yesterday, is expected to be conducted today, Buchanan said.
“The post-mortem was postponed to give the JCF’s CIB [Criminal Investigations Branch] unit time to complete its paperwork. It is now a police-supervised post-mortem and the family will be represented by Dr [Jephthah] Ford, who was also present today,” he said.
In the meantime, the minister said more than 500 suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been managed in hospitals across the island since a patient with the first suspected case was admitted at St Ann’s Bay Hospital in February.
Additionally, he said that there are presently 114 cases of COVID-19 patients in hospital, as at Sunday, April 26, 2020.
“These persons have been transferred between different hospitals based on the availability of spaces, [the] severity of illness, and resources. The process is managed and coordinated at the health regions and Ministry of Health and Wellness’s National Emergency Operations Centre, and has seen the cooperation between health regions and parishes.
“It is my considered view that with the support of the private and public health sectors, as well as our regional and international partners, we will continue to work to improve the resources in all our hospitals.
“As such, we will again look at the protocols to determine areas where there could be improvements. At this time the ministry awaits the outcome of the criminal investigation and the recommendation of the director of public prosecution on the proffering of charges in this matter,” said Tufton.
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