Senior doctors at the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) yesterday said signs of the alleged rape were not seen at any time since Colwyn Harding’s hospitalisation last month and that he did not tell any of the medical staff attending to him that he had been sexually assaulted with a baton by police.
The hospital has come under heavy criticism over the treatment that was administered to Harding but GPH Chief Executive Officer, Michael Khan, Director of Medical and Professional Services, Sheik Amir, Senior Registrar, Department of Surgery, Navin Rambarran and senior ward manager of the Male Surgical Ward, Keith Alonzo yesterday defended the care administered to him.
Harding, 23, who was admitted to the GPH on December 17th, has accused a police constable of ramming a condom covered wooden baton into his anus on November 15. It is alleged that the sexual assault occurred at a house in Timehri where the police had gone to conduct a search. He is also accused police of subsequent beatings while he was incarcerated at the Timehri Police Station.
At a news conference yesterday, Dr. Amir explained that Harding was brought to the hospital on December 13 last, seen at the outpatient section and diagnosed. At 10.35 pm on December 17, 2013, he said that Harding was brought to the Accident and Emergency Unit with severe pains, increased swelling to the affected area and vomiting. One both occasions, he was taken to the hospital in the company of a prison officer.
The doctor said that following an examination, it was discovered that he had strangulated inguinal scrotal hernia which required emergency surgery. Based on what the media was told there is a possibility that the strangulated inguinal scrotal hernia, which he had been diagnosed with, could have been caused by constant hitting to the abdominal region.
Asked if the condition could have been aggravated by the insertion of an object into the anus, Dr. Amir told reporters that “it would be difficult for me to say.” He said that it is more possible that the condition can develop due to continuous hitting to the abdomen. “Any contractions of the abdominal wall increase the pressure within the abdomen and usually cause the hernia to come down. So I am not going to say that it is because of a hitting on the abdomen,” he, however, noted.
The man’s mother, Sharon Harding, yesterday said that her son was vomiting green substance before he was taken to the hospital. She said that he told her that when he reached the hospital, the doctors were saying that he had incarcerated hernia but upon checking him one of them said that, “‘It wasn’t hernia! We ga treat him.’” She added that after the doctors discovered that it wasn’t they gave him an injection. “And that was the last thing he remembered. He said that he woke up in a room,” she added.
When quizzed as to whether Harding had told any staff member that something was inserted into his anus between December 13, when he first arrived at the hospital, and January 10, when it was first reported in the press, Dr. Amir responded in the negative. ”Our medical records, from the doctors that he has spoken to, as far as I am aware, no,” he stressed.
According to Dr. Amir, the hospital was unaware of Harding’s allegations until it was reported in the press. He said that signs of damage to the anus are not a normal thing that would be looked for. Reporters were told that to date Harding had not reported the alleged assault to the hospital.
When asked if the hospital can still check to see if there is any signs of damage to his anus, Dr. Amir questioned on what basis this should be done. “Because the public or the media has put it in the press?” he said.
The doctors present said even when Khan visited Harding at the hospital yesterday morning, he did not tell him anything about a sexual assault. “If he wants to intimate to us, this is what has happened well then we will deal with that,” Dr. Amir said.
Dr. Rambarran interjected, saying that Harding has had continuous monitoring and examinations of most areas. “To date we have found nothing that is consistent (with that),” he said, referring to the alleged assault.
Asked for his professional opinion on whether there would still be evidence of such a brutal assault so long after it has occurred, Dr. Amir said, “two to three weeks after those injuries they would be healed already… it depends on how serious the injury is.” He said too that the hospital would not be doing an internal examination “just like that. He hasn’t told us anything so we are just doing our regular examinations and there is no reason for us to go anything further.”
According to Dr. Amir, in a person such as Harding the bowel has to be resected. He explained that most men can get a hernia based on “just being a man.” He explained that a hernia occurs when there is a weakness of the abdominal wall and the bowel comes down into the scrotal sac. He said that usually the testicles are in the abdomen when the baby is in the uterus and before birth they descend. He said that while all men don’t develop hernias, a lot do.
Reporters were yesterday told that all that is required now is for a final surgery to be performed on Harding. This could take as long as three months.
Dr. Amir, in giving an update on the man’s condition, said that he is now eating, has lost some weight and will now need a “definitive surgery.” Standard protocol, he said, is that such a surgery is done until after about three to four months. “We are sticking to the protocol. We are not doing anything different than what would done anywhere else in the world,” he said while assuring that the hospital is in a position to do such a surgery. “So I don’t know why I have to recommend or advise him to seek further medical attention… nothing he has is not what we aren’t accustomed to,” he added.
Reporters were told that doctors from the Davis Memorial Hospital will be visiting Harding to offer a second opinion. That visit was to have taken place yesterday but this newspaper was unable to ascertain whether it had indeed occurred.
Meanwhile, the doctors said that when prisoners are brought to the institution they are not equipped with their medical history.
Khan stated that he is unsure about the treatment Harding received from the medex in the prison. He stressed that many times when prisoners are brought they don’t come with any chart with information on what the complaint was or what treatment was administered by the medex.
Dr. Ameer added that when the prisoner returns to the hospital for his next visit, he is usually accompanied by a different prison officer and it is like he is being seen for the first time all over again.
The doctors said despite the absence of the required information, they cannot refuse patients.
Earlier, Khan denied that the hospital was unable to provide Harding with Colostomy bags and medication. “I wish to state categorically that this is not true.
A preview of the chart shows that all the drugs he needed were given to him…the colostomy bags were available at all times and we must understand that if it is not available at the ward at that time, they get it,” he said. He said that the institution has two other patients who use colostomy bags and they have it at all times.
“It is my view that Mr. Harding has not been treated in a shoddy manner and the hospital and the nursing staff have done their duty,” he said.
Khan said that he saw Harding around 5 am yesterday and he was “looking in the best of health. He was sitting up.”