HIV HORROR! - Nurse infected after being stabbed by patient pleads with Government to pay up
More than seven years after she was infected with HIV by a needle while working as a nurse at a hospital in central Jamaica, Lydia James* is yet to receive one red cent in compensation from the State even though the Government has accepted liability.
James, a mother of five, has been living with HIV since September 2007 when she was stuck in her buttocks by an HIV/AIDS patient on a ward.
Since then, the Government has accepted liability but is yet to pay her any of the US$1.7 million (approx J$200 million) she has demanded in compensation.
"Three years ago, I sent them my claim and they haven't even written back to me," James' lawyer, Khadine Dixon, told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Their excuse is that the volume of the amount we are asking for need Cabinet approval," added Dixon.
The parties have appeared in court on two occasions and, in both instances, the lawyers representing the State were not ready to go forward.
"My first two attempts at assessment have failed due to no fault of mine. We have another one coming up April 22 of this year; I don't know what is going to happen. Because I realise where this is going, the delaying tactics, I sought to apply for an interim payment which is easy in these cases, when you say 'OK then, I admit', and nothing," lamented Dixon.
The position of the Government is upsetting to James, who was hoping for even a partial payment to purchase well-needed medication as her health deteriorates.
"I want to do a stem-cell procedure at this place in Montego Bay, and it is over $200,000 to do one of the treatments, and I have to do three," James revealed.
"My lawyer asked them to pay a small part to me just to let me go ahead and be able to do it, and they refused. And up to now, they are still not doing anything and I need to get out of the system and spend the rest of time I have with my kids before I go.
"What I am saying is, how could something so wicked happen to one of your workers and you treat your worker so bad?"
According to Dixon, although the compensation being sought for James is substantial, it is justified and is the least the State can do for one of its employees hurt on the job.
PAIN AND SUFFERING
"The amount of money isn't just plucked from the sky, it is certainly something that is quantifiable based on the heads of damage and the pain and suffering the claimant has suffered and the nutrition that she would need from day to day.
"In my opinion, no amount of money can compensate her, but if it is quantifiable she deserves in that region," said Dixon.
"Because for a servant of the Government to have been afflicted with this virus because of their negligence, I would think they would jump at the opportunity to compensate that person or at least give them the assistance that they need, whether psychological or medical treatment, and they have done absolutely nothing."
James' nightmare started around daybreak on September 30, 2007.
"I was on the night shift working 10-7. So around four o'clock I was tidying all the patients to meet the seven o'clock shift. I was at a Surgical Three bed tidying a patient, so the screen was drawn three sides, to give the patient her privacy," James recounted.
"My back was turned to Surgical Two patient, so while wiping the lady, I didn't even know when the other patient moved the curtain but I felt when someone injected me in my bottom, so I ran off and cursed a bad word because I was frightened. When I looked back, I saw the girl jumping up in the bed and saying 'I have AIDS'.
"I saw this patient for the first time when she jumped and stood in the bed, as she was admitted in the day and I was on the night shift and when I went to work the patients were sleeping. When I read the girl's docket I saw where the doctor had ordered restraint, but no one had restrained the patient."
According to James, there was no protocol in place at the hospital prior to the incident to guide persons on how to react if they find themselves in such a situation as the one she was faced with.
"The supervisor who was on duty said to me 'I think you should see a doctor at A&E (accident and emergency) before you go'. But up to nine o'clock in the morning there was no doctor at A&E, so she then came back and said to me 'never mind, you can go home, because there is no doctor here'," James said.
The practical nurse said six months after she was injected, a blood test showed that she was HIV-positive despite being given antiretroviral drugs during the period. A test of her husband was negative.
"If it wasn't for the previous matron of the hospital and my mental-health friend I would have committed suicide, because I have actually gone to the edge on that already.
"My CD count has started to drop and I don't know if it is depression or everything that is going on with my husband that has come down on me, but it was over 900 and it make one drop from there to little over 500. So I know that my system is going down," James said.
* Name changed on request