T&T health authority ordered to pay compensation over treatment of 17-year-old with stab wounds

-patient died days after discharge

(Trinidad Guardian) The Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) has been ordered to pay compensation to the mother of a 17-year-old boy who died days after he was discharged from the Scarborough General Hospital with stab wounds.

In an oral judgment in the Hall of Justice in Tobago last week, Justice Frank Seepersad said the TRHA was negligent in its treatment of Zach Seeran when they discharged him, because its staff had failed to consider a CT scan from a private medical institution which showed he had damage to several internal organs.

Seepersad said: “It is unfathomable that in 2010 a CT scan report which was ordered could sit on a desk at an off-site facility and no effort was made to ascertain the whereabouts of same. The tears of his mother should not have been shed in vain. It is unacceptable that available and requested diagnostic assistance, which was ordered and prepared, was not forwarded to the hospital.”

Seepersad ruled that the care afforded to Seeran fell below the reasonable standard expected of healthcare institutions.

While he ordered compensation he did not quantify it, instead referring the issue to a High Court Master.

Seepersad said the case demonstrated the need for a critical review of the public healthcare system. “As flawed as the system may be, it still provides an invaluable service to thousands of citizens and so a solution has to be found,” he said, as he suggested that improvements be funded via amendments to the health surcharge system, or through introduction of a public health insurance scheme as used in other countries.

Seepersad was especially critical of State-funded healthcare in Tobago, noting that the scan had to be performed at a private institution because the hospital did not have the necessary equipment.

“This court has had to deal with several medical negligence matters in Tobago and it’s simply outrageous that in this island of 60,000 odd inhabitants, the only hospital is devoid of basic functioning equipment and staff,” he said.

“How can this be? How can this island, in a time where economic diversification is desperately needed, be considered as a viable tourist destination when there is a lack of basic and essential medical services?”

According to the lawsuit, Seeran, of Coral Gardens, was taken for treatment at the hospital after he was stabbed during Independence Day celebrations on September 1, 2010. He was warded for three days during which time he was taken to a private testing facility for a CT scan of his abdomen. He was eventually discharged but returned the following day after complaining of feeling unwell. Seeran was examined by doctors and again discharged. However he died two days later.

A post mortem by forensic pathologist Dr Hubert Daisley revealed Seeran died of damage to his lungs, kidneys and liver sustained in the stabbing, which had not been detected or treated by the hospital.

Seeran’s mother Arlene was represented by Gilbert Peterson, SC and Dawn Palackdharry-Singh,

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Shortly after Seeran died, Robert Greene and Hakeem Joseph, both of Darrell Spring, Scarborough, were charged with his murder. The men were initially freed after a preliminary inquiry but were recharged and put on trial for the crime in October 2016.

Joseph was discharged by Justice David Harris, who ruled that there was insufficient evidence linking him to the crime. Greene was eventually freed of murder but convicted of the lesser offence of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

According to evidence presented during the trial, Seeran was attacked by Greene after he intervened in an altercation between him and another man.

Seeram, a student of the Scarborough Secondary School, intervened and began pelting bottles at Greene. Greene and another man then chased Seeran into a mall where he stabbed him eight times.

 

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