Guyanese tourist dies after T&T hospital turns him away
(Trinidad Guardian) Staff at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) are once again under scrutiny after 35-year-old Guyanese national Jeetindra Sookram died of a suspected heart attack an hour after he was denied treatment there because he was not a T&T citizen.
Sookram was then rushed to the Charlieville Medical Centre Ltd for treatment, but died in the back seat of a Nissan Navarra in the private clinic’s Caroni Savannah Road, Chaguanas car park on Thursday. Doctors there said his symptoms suggested he suffered a massive heart attack, as he had complained about severe chest pains.
“I think it is negligence that caused him to not have a chance. I can’t understand how tourists can come into this country and get treated like this,” Sookram’s partner, Vidya Baichu, told the T&T Guardian on Friday. Baichu and Sookram, a farmer from the Guyanese island of Wakenaam, had been on a two-week vacation here and was staying at their friend Melissa Deosaran’s Warren Road, Cunupia home.
Chairman of the North Central Regional Health Authority, Shehenaz Mohammed, has since instructed CEO Kumar Boodram to check the roster to identify which workers were on duty when the incident occurred. Mohammed said on Friday that Sookram’s family has been asked to provide the RHA with details of the incident, as an investigation has been launched. The incident comes weeks after baby Simeon Cottle’s death five hours after his mother, Quelly Ann Cottle, underwent a C-section at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital.
Telling of the tragedy while waiting outside the San Fernando mortuary yesterday, Baichu said they were talking at Deosaran’s Central workplace around 7.30 am when he complained of a slight pain. Deosaran had taken them there because she had to drop something off. Baichu said she gave Sookram two painkillers, believing he may have been tired from their travelling here, but it did not help.
“He could not sit and he could not stand because the pain was getting to him more. It kept getting worse so we took him to the hospital (EWMSC),” Baichu said. “When we got there, I went in with him and they took him straight to the place where they took blood and did tests. “When I went to register him now, they asked for ID and I gave them his passport. They told me he is not a Trinidadian resident and so all the services, we would have to pay for it.
“We asked them how much was the cost, they said they were not able to say, but whatever service they do we would have to pay for it.” Baichu is now calling on Government to probe the incident, saying if Sookram had received help at the hospital he might still be alive. She said even while Sookram was grimacing from the chest pains, EWMSC medical staff told him to take a seat while they tended to other patients.
Baichu said Sookram had no known heart condition and never experienced chest pains before. I just want the Government to look into it, because a lot of Guyanese come across here on vacation … and this could happen to anybody and the treatment that we got, I don’t want it for anybody else. “I can’t understand how visitors can visit this country, go to the hospital and can’t get help. Maybe if they did not send us away, maybe there was a chance that he would still be alive.
“I am upset because it is a public hospital. People go to Guyana and anybody could go to the hospital and get treatment. Nobody is charged. I can’t understand how in a public hospital in this country, you have to pay for a service and their negligence is what caused his death.”
NCRHA: Emergencies a priority
Expressing her displeasure at the incident in a telephone interview yesterday, Mohammed said Sookram should have received medical attention at no cost, as there was no policy which restricts free healthcare to nationals alone. “There is no policy that says that any non-national can be turned away from emergency care because they are unable to pay. Emergency care is available to all nationals and non-nationals. Under no circumstance can anyone be denied care,” she said.
“I have asked for the family to provide us with the details so that an immediate investigation can be launched into this. I am very disturbed that something like this has happened. “Emergency care is anywhere. Even if you go to the United States, where you pay for care, if you go in with an emergency it is free, so it is here too. It bewilders me how this happened and I am very angry that is has happened.”
Mohammed said the Ministry of Health was yet to develop a policy with respect to healthcare for non-nationals for elective and emergency services. She said no fees have also been specified for services at hospitals, therefore all services should be free.