Mon | Oct 23, 2017

'Irresponsible and hurtful' - Attorney for three dead babies' parents rips public defender's report

Published:Monday | October 17, 2016 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry

Marc Ramsay, the attorney representing three of the mothers whose babies were among the 19 who died due to bacterial infections, has described a report from the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) as irresponsible and hurtful.

A report by the OPD concluded that the eight premature babies who died in separate infectious incidents at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in June last year were the "unfortunate victims of an under-resourced medical facility".

Last year, 19 preterm babies died at the UHWI and the Cornwall Regional Hospital as a result of Serratia and Klebsiella infections.

However, the report, which was released on Friday, said there was no evidence that the babies were infected with Serratia and Klebsiella because of medical negligence on the part of hospital employees and even disputed media reports that there had been an outbreak.

Ramsay noted that the evidence and conclusions presented were disappointing. He insisted, however, that he would persist in ensuring that justice is served.

"It's a bit irresponsible based on the contents of it (report). It gives the impression that it applies to all the cases when each case should really stand on its own and should be examined for its merits. The public defender is not a judge. The public defender's role is as an advocate for those who need to be defended or who need their rights to be upheld," Ramsay said.

"Our contention from the very beginning, and also from examining the evidence, was that there was an inadequate system in place, and that inadequacy meant that certain resources were not in place that should have been in place. Certain things like water and soap, those are not characteristic of somewhere that is under-resourced. That is characteristic of somewhere that is negligent because those are basic things that are needed to prevent the spread of certain illnesses to vulnerable children," he declared.

He added: "One of my clients, her son had a 95 per cent chance of survival when he was born, so this narrative that makes it seem as if these were children who were destined to die is not true."

 

REPORT NEEDED BALANCE

 

The attorney also said that the report needed balance, noting that he had sent several letters to the public defender but did not receive a response.

"There are some challenges that I have with it. One challenge is that the experts that were used to substantiate her conclusion, they are both persons who at some point were employed to the hospital. But beyond that, we did not submit a brief on behalf of our clients. We had written to the public defender. A letter was delivered to her and we did not get a response. This report has come out and the only reference to a submission by an attorney is UHWI's lawyers," he said.

"It's irresponsible because one, it's a blanket statement. A child is not a number, and that is what we have been trying to emphasise. Yes, we have said 19 babies have died, but these are babies with names, each with individual cases, individual afflictions, which needed individual attention and individual treatment. So to publish a report that says none of it was negligent when I know, for example, that two of my clients did not even speak to her, is irresponsible. It's also very hurtful."

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com