'Slap in the face' - Mothers offended by UHWI's failure to accept liability for dead babies
TEARS FLOWED freely down the face of Malissa Bryan, one of the mothers whose babies died from the bacterial outbreaks at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), as her lawyer read a letter he said came from attorneys representing the hospital yesterday, stating that they were not responsible for the death of her baby boy.
Bryan said this latest development was a “slap in the face”. At a press conference yesterday, Marc Ramsay, the attorney representing Bryan, said it had been a painful journey for the mothers and described the lack of support from the hospital as callous.
Bryan, who wept throughout the press conference, along with Shanieka Gordon, another mother who lost her baby, was in full support of statements made by their attorney. The letter that Ramsay said he received from the UHWI, which he read at the press conference, stated: “The UHWI was of the view that the deaths of Dimitri and Mahir (babies of both mothers) were not caused by any failure on the part of our clients in relation to your clients’ allegations. The UHWI does not accept liability and rejects your clients’allegation.”
Ramsay told The Gleaner that he was desperately hoping that the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders would be more responsible and compassionate.
“These are mothers who have lost their children. It’s a deep pain. They have had to seek counselling because of depression and there has been psychiatric trauma,” he told The Gleaner. “They appreciated that it would have been difficult, seeing that they are premature babies, but they watched them grow and they saw first-hand that if certain precautions were taken, they would have been alive.”
Ramsay said the three mothers he was representing had written to him describing the pain they were experiencing.
He read from Bryan’s correspondence, which said: “It’s not easy to carry a child for more than half your pregnancy, hold him, feed him, change him, watch him, sing to him and at the end of it all, have him killed. It hurts, really hurts. My child was full of life, born at 25 weeks. He was a fighter; he beat the odds and lived 51 days. I know he would have been great if he was given the chance to live.”
His other client, Daniel McKenzie, who could not attend the press conference, said: “People need to know that none of this is OK. The disregard shown by the board of the hospital, lack of support and governance from the Ministry of Health is painful. I miss my son every day and I can’t afford for his death to be in vain. My son made me very proud because he fought for 53 days, even though the bacteria gave him a hard time.”
Gordon wrote: “It’s a traumatic, devastating event that I will have to live with. It has left me feeling empty. There is no compensation that can bring back my son, but I owe it to him to bring justice.”
Ramsay told The Gleaner that although the mothers were quite depressed, “the good side of it is that they have been able to bond and encourage each other”. He said actions taken recently, including the sacking of the boards and the removal of former health minister, Dr Fenton Ferguson, showed that the hospitals were at fault.
“Nineteen babies who were making exceptional strides lost their lives because basic protocols were flouted. These include failing to wear disposable gowns, absence of signs instructing persons to wash their hands, and failure to enforce protocols,” the attorney said.
“Though the hospital and ministry have publicly taken steps that indicate their culpability, they have been most unjust in their treatment of the mothers.”
Health Minister Horace Dalley said though he would not comment on any specific case, it is always a difficult process whenever he meets with the mothers.
“My compassion is still out to the mothers. I have been in discussions with several of them and I understand what they are going through. They have the right to take whatever action they deem fit, and the UHWI has a right to defend themselves,” Dalley said.
“I hope they will bear in mind that we (ministry) are mindful of the pain they are going through, and my heart goes out to them, and we are working assiduously to remedy the situation,” Dalley said.
Nineteen babies died over the four months leading up to October because of the outbreak of klebsiella and serratia in the neonatal intensive care units at the UHWI and the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay.
Five mothers yesterday demonstrated outside the gates of the UHWI and the health ministry in Kingston.