Investigations are now ongoing into the circumstances surrounding the recent death of a premature baby at the West Demerara Regional Hospital, Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence has said.
Lawrence, in an invited comment, told Stabroek News that the ministry is aware of the case and has since commenced an investigation.
The Ministry of Public Health has come under scrutiny for its silence on the images and video of what appeared to be a live premature baby in a bedpan that were circulated on social media two Saturdays ago by a distressed relative of the baby’s parents, who related that staff at the hospital were callous in their handling of the child.
The ministry’s Public Relations Officer Terrence Esseboom had said last week that the ministry’s Maternal and Child Health Unit was preparing a statement on the case but to date no such statement has been released.
However, when approached on Monday for a comment on the situation, Lawrence said, “All of those matters are under investigation… when I have the report and we have looked at it, the first persons we will contact is the family and then after we will go to the media, that is, if they want to as well because you know that’s a personal matter.”
Vishwanie Persaud, the baby’s mother, had called for officials to investigate the staff at the West Demerara Regional Hospital, while saying they did not give the child a “fair chance” to live.
According to the 19-year-old Persaud, she was just over five months pregnant with what was supposed to be her second child when she visited the hospital on March 30, after experiencing belly pains.
Upon her arrival, the young woman said she was asked to take a urine test and was subsequently taken to be examined. It was during the examination that Persaud reportedly went into labour and gave birth to a premature baby girl.
At that point, Persaud said she was told that the baby was alive but that the after-birth had not yet been removed.
“When ah do deliver the baby, the after-birth wasn’t out as yet, and they tell me the baby is a girl and that she born alive, but that they gonna discharge she in the bin… I tell the doctor no. I want my baby,” she said.
But while the doctor explained to her that such an underdeveloped baby would not live, Persaud said she continued to plead with them not to dispose of the baby and was subsequently handed the child wrapped in paper and placed in a bedpan.
The young woman explained that she was then administered saline and informed that her premature delivery was as a result of an infection occurring in the after-birth. She added that she was aware of the infection and had been prescribed medication by the clinic she attended.
Nonetheless, Persaud believed that her baby was not given a “fair chance to live” and explained that though her daughter would have been alive for several hours, all requests to have the baby moved to an incubator were denied by medical personnel, who stated that the hospital was not equipped with an incubator.
“She was alive. She was moving, she crying, she was doing everything, but the doctor said she would only live for three or four days,” Persaud said.
At this point, Persaud said she was discharged from the hospital but was not allowed to leave with her child, who was still alive at that time. Not wanting to leave her child, the young woman said she remained at the hospital until a relative arrived and objected to the manner in which the situation was being handled.
Eventually, the young mother said she left the hospital and went home but returned the next day around 6.30 am to find her daughter still alive.
“The baby was still alive and we even had to clean she cause she mess and urine but even with all that, they still didn’t want do anything to see if they could save she. Nah long after, a man come up behind me and I see he gone turn up the oxygen that the baby was on and I went to tell one of the doctors and she seh ‘she aint know who coming and turn up the oxygen, that nobody doh has to turn it up so high,’” she explained. “We left and we come out but by the time me and me husband go in back, the man come back and turn it up again. We start seeing the smoke how it coming through the oxygen through she nose, but by time we get the doctor that was the last of the baby,” Persaud added.
Having confirmed that the baby was dead, the couple were told that the hospital would dispose of the child. However, they objected and requested instead that the baby’s remains be released to them.
“My husband tell them we want the baby to carry go home and them put she in the bed pan, and them tell we, we can have she,” Persaud said.
They were not, however, issued any formal documents to record the baby’s death. This decision, Persaud said, was based on the fact that the doctors claimed that the baby was not developed to a stage where she was “accepted as a person.”