Today I am sad. Very sad. Today, the 14th September, would have been my brother’s thirty-fifth birthday. He died last December at GPHC. I wrote a letter to the Stabroek News on the 31st January 2018, titled ‘Sad the way GPHC treated a terminally ill patient’. It described the inhumane treatment my brother received during his last days.
As a result of my letter I was contacted by Rohmena Chung, Director of Human Resources of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation on the 1st February who made some queries and promised to investigate and get back to me. To date I’m still awaiting a follow up response.
My letter got to Guyana Times, in New York. Not sure how it got there. GPHC CEO Brigadier (ret’d) George Lewis was contacted by the newspaper and this was his response on the 5th February, as quoted by the Guyana Times. “Yes, I saw the letter and I was disappointed. I read the letter because I felt that, rather than going to the press, Mr. Devonish should have shared the information with us (at the GPHC), and we certainly would have launched an investigation into the issue and taken corrective actions, whether it would be disciplinary, whether it be training or whatever, to correct the situation,”.
Minister within the Public Health Ministry Dr Karen Cummings was also contacted, on the 5th February, by the Guyana Times and this was her response. “We are aware of the issues, but I want to say that there are supervisors for the nurses, and they know that they are not supposed to be on their phones because they are very important in the delivery of health care. We are developing programmes to teach them customer care and efficiency, but the issues didn’t come the other day; (they are) something that we inherited, and moving forward, we are going to address (them). I want to say that in addressing (the issues) we would have to reassess the attitudes of the nurses and then we have to overhaul the system to improve it.”
Mr. Lewis you said I should have made a complaint to the GPHC and it would have been investigated. Anyway, you were aware of it since February. What have you done? Same question to Dr. Karen Cummings and Rohmena Chung. What was done? What has changed? I can answer those questions for you. Nothing has changed. Patients continue to experience undue suffering. Now you understand why I have no confidence in the GPHC investigation process? Now you understand why I chose to go to the media?
The fact is that there have been similar tragedies in the health care system after my letter. The baby that died in the NICU from sepsis when he was admitted with a congenital duodenal problem. The mother in Linden who died from a ruptured uterus and no matching blood available in Linden. The driver had to scurry to Georgetown to get blood and by the time he returned the mother was dead. The mother who died in Berbice because of poor care and when the mourning relatives complained they were chased off the maternity ward. The mother who was admitted to the maternity ward with a foetus that was alive. She was placed on a bed with a massive hole, developed back pain and lost the baby.
These are just the few I could remember off my head that occurred over the past seven months. There are many more. The point is that the health service in Guyana is in crisis. Not today. For years. Under PPP. Under PNC. Under APNU+AFC. None of them care. Their health is taken care of overseas.
Editor, my letter today is not for those in authority to provide answers for my brother’s horrendous care. It’s not about me. It was never about me. I am just the humble messenger for the suffering patients. Rather, my letter today is to give an insight as to why I repeatedly write letters in defence of patients. My brother last year. My mother when I was nine years. Both died in front of my eyes. Both experiences that keep this passion burning in me. I will not stop until things improve for others. No one should have our horrible experiences.
I see myself as a patient mole who has infiltrated the medical profession. Dr Martin Luther King once said, “If a man has not found something worth dying for, he is not fit to live.” I have found that something Dr. King alluded to. Unlike most, I found it at the tender age of nine. An age where I did not understand the magnitude of my beliefs or its consequences.
Sherwin, happy birthday. I miss you. I really miss you. No day goes by without me thinking of you and mom. I know you are looking down on me. When you were alive you always made me feel special by boasting to your friends that your brother is a doctor. My text message I sent to you last year on your birthday I do still have it. If I had known that our phone conversation on your birthday would have been the last birthday conversation we would have had I would have recorded it. I will be with you and mom. Not sure when. Be patient with me. I have much more to do before I take my rightful place in Thugz Mansion. The final resting place for the poor and underprivileged.
Dr. Mark Devonish
MBBS MSc MRCP(UK)
Consultant Acute Medicine
Nottingham University Hospital