Fort Wellington doctors respond to opioid abuse complaint

The Fort Wellington Hospital doctors who are under investigation by the Medical Council of Guyana (MCG) for allegedly overprescribing opioids have submitted their responses and are expected to be interviewed to determine culpability, according to Chairman     Dr Navindranauth Rambarran.

“The investigations are ongoing. After some amount of requesting and going after the records, we have those and have pretty much also gone through the process of asking the doctors to reply to the accusations, which they have mostly done,” Rambarran told Sunday Stabroek. “The next thing is we interview them, as necessary, and determine if [there is] culpability or any wrongdoing occurred,” he added.

A formal complaint was made by PPP/C Member of Parliament Harry Gill against Dr

Harry Gill

Steven Cheefoon, Dr Ivelaw Sinclair and Dr Adrian Van Nooten, who are all attached to the West Coast Berbice facility. Dr Cheefoon is also the Regional Health Officer of Region Five.

Gill charged that the doctors facilitated former Region Five councillor Carol Joseph, who was accused of abusing her authority to access large amounts of prescription pain medication, in accessing the opioids.

Joseph resigned from the Region Five Regional Democratic Council on April 21 this year, two days after Stabroek News published a report on her alleged abuse of medication. The matter had been drawn to the public’s notice by Gill after Nurse Sherlyn Marks reported to him that her complaints to senior medical officials about the Joseph case had been ignored.

Marks was abruptly transferred by Region Five Regional Executive Officer Ovid Morrison after the news report on Joseph’s case appeared      in this newspaper. Morrison’s transfer of the nurse has been condemned and there have been calls for it to be rescinded.

Navindranauth Rambarran

Her matter is currently before the Public Service Commission (PSC). Acting PSC Chairman Patrick Yarde has to date remained silent on if he has taken any action on the matter.

In his complaint to the MCG, Gill pointed out Marks had written to then Minister of Public Health Dr George Norton on the matter on December 13, 2016.

In that letter, Marks had said she was being harassed and intimidated by Joseph because of the complaint she had lodged with Dr Chefoon about the medication. Marks also sent her letter to a number of other regional and health officials, who did nothing about it.

Gill noted that the Medical Practitioners (Code of Conduct and Standards of Practice) Regulations 2008 – Responsibilities to Patients, Regulation 7, paragraph (5) states: “A medical practitioner shall not expose his patients to risks which may arise from a compromise of their own health status (eg dependence on alcohol or other drugs, HIV infection, hepatitis and the like).” In addition, Regulation 36, paragraph (11) states: “The Medical Council may regard the prescription or supply of drugs of dependence otherwise than in the course of bona fide treatment as a serious professional misconduct.”

He urged that the MCG conduct the investigation, in keeping with its own Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, to protect the integrity of the medical profession.

Rambarran explained that he could not detail the aspects of the investigations but stressed that it would be thorough and impartial. “You would understand that I can’t divulge more than this… suffice to say that this is usually a sort of investigative process that has to be, for all intents and purposes, protected for the privacy of those involved,” he said.

Asked about when the probe will be completed, he added, “It’s hard to give a timeframe, to say that we will be completed next week or the other and so on.

But we have gotten responses from the doctors and we are going to interview them to hear what occurred and hear them say for themselves at that point. If we see the need be, after that investigative end we will take actions where necessary. The investigate end result will determine culpability or not.

When reports, come we have to keep an open mind regardless of what is the public domain and so on. It is absolutely necessary that we cannot have preconceptions and so on.”

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