Parents sue GPHC over newborn’s death

-claim neonatal unit was contaminated

Georgetown Public Hospital

The parents of a newborn baby who died at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) have filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming that the institution was aware that the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was contaminated at the time.

The parents of the now deceased Maleek Sandy, who died from sepsis, are alleging that the hospital was aware that the NICU was contaminated by a ‘bug,’ which subsequently led to the child’s death on March 11th, 2018.

While Sunday Stabroek has confirmed that an investigation into the couple’s claim is ongoing, the father of the child, Wilfred Sandy, told this newspaper that the decision to take legal action against the hospital comes in wake of what he believes have been attempts to cover up the truth as it relates to his son’s death.

According to Sandy, his fiancée began experiencing pains on March 2nd, and was rushed to the New Amsterdam Hospital, where she gave birth to their son three days later.

While there were no complications experienced during the delivery, Sandy said his fiancée, who is also a doctor, realised that something was wrong when the newborn began vomiting a strange greenish substance.

He related that nurses at the hospital were notified and the baby was admitted to the hospital’s NICU, where he immediately underwent a series of tests, the results of which indicated that the infant was suffering from duodenal atresia (intestinal obstruction).

This condition, according to doctors, would have required surgery to clear the blockage in his intestines, and as such, Maleek was transferred to the GPHC, where he was re-examined and subsequently admitted to the hospital’s NICU.

According Sandy, they were told by doctors at GPHC that no blockage of the intestines was seen,   but that he would have to begin treatment with antibiotics since they believed him to be suffering from an infection.

However, after another set of examinations were carried out on the infant one day later, doctors discovered a partial blockage of the child’s intestines and recommended that he undergo the surgery.

But what was otherwise supposed to be a simple surgery became an immediate nightmare for the first time parents as the child’s health began to deteriorate in a matter of days.

Never came

Sandy said they were told that their son would undergo the surgery on Saturday, March 10th and that he was given blood platelets as part of preparation.

The man said his fiancée, who was accommodated nearby in order to be closer to the child, continuously monitored the baby and quickly realised that his condition was getting worse.

“She noticed that his tummy began to swell and he was turning yellow as though he had jaundice. She spoke to the nurses and told them that he needed to be put under artificial lighting, but that did not happen until the next day,” Sandy shared, before noting that they had tried on several occasions to speak with the head surgeon.

“We were told to ensure that we spoke to the head surgeon to get a clear understanding of what was going on. Every day we were there we tried to see her but that never happened. We were told that we would have seen her on the Saturday since the surgery was scheduled for 11 am but she never came,” the man added.

The surgery was reportedly cancelled after the parents were informed that the infant’s platelet count was low.

Sandy said this became another issue as they were then told that the Blood Bank did not have any platelets readily available. He noted that when he inquired if he or his fiancée could donate, he was told that there was no guarantee that it would be a match.

The man said the situation was so dire that he began inquiring whether or not he could have the child transferred to a private institution. However, he was told that because of the child’s condition, a move was not advisable, and that the same surgeon would have had to operate at the private hospital since she is the country’s paediatric surgeon.

Sandy said that he was once again asked if he had met with the head surgeon, but related that they were not been given the opportunity to. He noted that he was given a number of a senior doctor, whom he said found it strange that they were unable to meet with the surgeon.

“When I spoke to the doctor he said it was unacceptable and he made calls to the hospital to see what was going on. Not long after that we had several doctors coming to us saying that [our] baby suffering from respiratory distress and that they will have to put a tube down his throat because he is not getting oxygen,” the man recounted.

What made matters worse, Sandy said, was the failure of the doctors and nurses to locate a readily available sterile tube to use. He said the child died close to midnight on Sunday, by the time doctors were able to insert the tube.

Cover up

Sandy told the Sunday Stabroek that the cause of death was given as sepsis.

While they were already struggling with the death of their newborn child, the man said they later found out from nurses in the ward that the NICU had been dealing with a “bug” and that there had been other deaths.

“I began making my own inquiries and that’s when I found out several babies who were in the NICU had died, and all their cause of deaths were listed as sepsis. When we came to claim our child’s body from the mortuary, [that] was another issue because we had to look through doors of other dead babies,” Sandy related.

“We even had issues with getting a doctor to sign off on the death certificate. No one from the team of doctors who were looking after our child wanted to sign the certificate and we were put on another run around,” he added.

Nevertheless, Sandy said that they lodged an official complaint with GPHC’s complaints department and were told they would be contacted within 29 days. However, 29 days turned into two months before they were contacted by the hospital and invited to a meeting with the Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) of the hospital and other officials, including the previously elusive head surgeon for the paediatric ward.

He said they were initially told by the DCEO that based on what was relayed by the head surgeon, their child would have died either way.

“I found that hard to believe since they told us from the beginning at New Amsterdam that the surgery was going to be an easy one. I confronted them about the claims the nurses made about the virus in the NICU and they all went silent,” Sandy shared.

“Eventually the head surgeon said that they were aware of it and had made efforts to move the babies and have the place cleaned, but that they went back and it was still there. I told them that they knew the place had a virus and they exposed my child to it. Our child did not go in there with any complications except for the blocked intestines, but the minute he got there he kept getting sicker and sicker,” the grieving father added.

He further noted that attempts were made to meet with the Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, but those were unsuccessful as she kept referring them to other personnel. Letters of complaint were also submitted to the Guyana Medical Council and President David Granger.

“We lodged a written complaint to the Medical Council, but the head surgeon sits on the council. Is she going to investigate herself? We also sent emails to the President and were told to speak with the Minister of Public Health. We have tried and tried, but nothing,” Sandy said.

“This is my fiancée’s first child, and the first child I was every able to hold because I had other cases where my babies died from miscarriages. This is my fiancée’s first time and they did not even offer counselling for her. If they can do this to their own, think of what they have been doing and can do to other people out there,” he added.  

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