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Public Defender subpoenas UHWI heads over dead babies

Published:Thursday | October 29, 2015 | 12:00 AMAnastasia Cunningham
Public Defender Arlene Harrison-Henry

The Office of the Public Defender has issued subpoenas for three of the University Hospital of the West Indies' (UHWI) top heads to answer to the circumstances under which 12 premature babies died from bacterial infections there over a five-month period.

Sterling Soares, chairman of the board at UHWI; Dr Cecil White, chief executive officer; and Professor Trevor McCartney, medical chief of staff, were served the subpoenas on Tuesday, Public Defender Arlene Harrison-Henry told The Gleaner yesterday.

She said the subpoenas were issued as part of her office's probe into the circumstances under which 19 premature babies died as a result of outbreaks of the klebsiella and serratia bacteria at the UHWI and Cornwall Regional Hospital - 12 at UHWI and seven at Cornwall Regional. Since June, 42 premature babies have been infected from four outbreaks.

Harrison-Henry declined to comment further on the matter. However, at least one parent has filed a report with her office.

Reliable sources informed The Gleaner that Soares, whose subpoena was sent via email, has acknowledged receipt. However, up to press time, there was no response from White or McCartney. Theirs were issued via a process server.

The sources also revealed that last week, the public defender had requested to interview the three men in relation to the scandal that first rocked the nation two weeks ago and to explain what led to the tragic events. The interviews were to begin on Sunday with White, but he did not turn up.

Following a statement on the tragedy last week from UHWI, White and McCartney resigned on Monday. Described as "one-line letters of resignation that offered no reason", McCartney's resignation takes effect on October 31, while White will demit office on January 31, 2016.

Efforts to contact the parties involved were unsuccessful.

NONEW INFECTION

Yesterday, Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse said there had been no new infection caused by the outbreaks, noting that Cornwall Regional saw its last new case on October 14, while at UHWI, the last new case was seen on October 15.

"We have been taking measures to ensure that we heighten all our precautions to minimise any spread," she said.

"This meant isolating the babies who were infected, making sure that all new admissions were in a different area; the provision of additional equipment and supplies; the hiring and redeployment of staff; close monitoring of the environment; and the provision of daily reports."

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com