Pensioners George and Elfreida Benjamin depend on the public healthcare system for all their medical needs, but the man is now devastated because his wife is hospitalised after using expired medication.
The expired pills, George, 84, alleged, were given to his wife by the Leonora Cottage Hospital (LCH) last Friday. Elfreida, 74, became “gravely ill” hours after taking the medication and was rushed to the Georgetown Public Hos-pital Corporation (GPHC) on Saturday morning.
Several efforts were made by this newspaper to contact Region Three health officials about the case. The administrator of the LCH was not available for comment when Stabroek News visited their office on Wednesday afternoon and a secretary explained that the official was on leave. There was no other official at the LCH who could address the matter. Efforts were subsequently made to contact Regional Health Officer (RHO) Dr. Ravindranauth Persaud but he also could not be reached for a comment.
George and his wife live at Cornelia Ida, West Coast Demerara. The man said that about two weeks ago, his wife, who is a diabetic, visited the LCH after she started having some trouble with one of her toes. “The big toe on one of her foot started to turn out, so her son decide to take her to the hospital for a check-up before it turned into anything serious,” George recalled. “She saw a Cuban doctor at the hospital and he give her some tablets.”
His wife visited the hospital several more times and saw the same doctor, George said. Elfreida made her last visit to the LCH last Friday, he said, and she was given more pills. The man said that he was present during the visit and was not satisfied with the treatment.
“There is the language barrier…this doctor can’t speak clearly enough for us to understand so he could not tell us what exactly was wrong with her…he just look at her and write a prescription and then write something else for her go to the lab for some tests,” he reported.
The woman was taking more than 4 different types of medication daily, George said, and her condition kept worsening during the two weeks she was visiting the LCH. After Elfreida returned home from the LCH last Friday, he recalled, she took her pills as directed by the doctor.
George said his wife started vomiting a short time after she took her first dose of medication that day. By the next morning, Elfreida’s face was swollen and there were black boils about her body. The woman was also complaining for pain in the chest and throat, her lips were dried and cracked and she could not swallow anything. He and other relatives rushed her to the GPHC on Saturday morning and she was admitted to the Female Medical Ward. George said it was he who spoke with the doctor at GPHC.
“I remember the conversation with the doctor clearly… she was the one that point out to me that the tablets were expired tablets and then she showed it to the other doctors that were working in the same room and she call someone at Leonora and tell them about it,” he said.
George said he explained to the doctor at GPHC what had happened to his wife’s toe and related to her that Elfreida had been visiting the LCH for treatment. The doctor then enquired whether his wife was given medication and he handed her a bag containing all the tablets that his wife had gotten from the dispensary at the LCH. The doctor, George recalled, started to go through the assortment of medication and as she was doing so she exclaimed: “Oh my! These tablets are expired!”
He added, “I heard her speaking with the two other doctors and telling them that the tablets I gave to her were expired tablets and that some of them had been expired for two years and others for a year and a half,” George said.
The man added that the doctor then walked out a side door with the all the tablets he had given to her.
She returned to the room empty-handed and when he enquired of her where the tablets were, she told him that she had disposed of them. “I ask how she could do that…she kill the evidence there…and then she pick up the phone and call someone at Leonora and I hear her relating the incident about me and said that the tablets were expired and it had to be looked into,” he said.
The next day, George went to the LCH where he requested a copy of his wife’s medical records. The man said that he was told by the employees that they could locate nothing there for Elfreida.
“I don’t know what to do or where to go to get help… I know that is the expired tablets have her in this state and now these people trying to hide their fault,” he said.
Elfreida was still a patient in the Female Medical Ward at the GPHC yesterday afternoon. The woman is semi-conscious and her condition appears to be worsening, George said.
He said that he is even more disturbed at the poor treatment his wife is currently receiving.
“I am a pensioner. My wife is a pensioner. We depend on the public healthcare system… we trust the system to be fair to us because we cannot afford to go to a private hospital but this whole thing is killing me more fast,” George said.
The man said that he is not sure where he has to go to make a complaint about the issue and has been asking health care officials at the LCH and the GPHC. However, George said that the employees do not want to advise him or just do not know what to tell him.
“I am hoping that things will turn around for my wife but is carelessness got her in here and now no one is helping us,” the man said.