The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) is investigating the deaths of two children and the hospitalisation of a third after they were administered a drug prior to undergoing chemotherapy.
The hospital has also announced that the use of the drug at the centre of the probe has been discontinued.
Reports of the children’s deaths surfaced on social media and sparked outrage and calls from the public for a thorough investigation to be done.
The dead children have been identified as seven-year-old Corwin Edwards, who succumbed on January 14th, and three-year-old Roshini Seegobin, of Enmore, East Coast Demerara, who died on January 18th. Six-year-old Sharezer Mendonca, of Queenstown, Essequibo Coast, meanwhile, was up to last evening a patient on life support in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the GPHC.
In the statement on Sunday night, the GPHC announced that it has “launched an investigation to determine the reason for the adverse reaction to the medication.”
“That investigation involves the interviewing of all medical persons directly involved along with an assessment of the medication administered,” it added.
The name of the drug was not released.
In its statement, the hospital called on the public to desist from speculation “on what is a sensitive matter and await the findings of the investigation.”
While relatives of the children are desperate for answers, the administration of the hospital has been largely silent and a GPHC source yesterday told Stabroek News that management is awaiting the findings from the “thorough investigation” that is underway before speaking with the families.
Azeena Bakraj, an aunt of Mendonca, yesterday told this newspaper that the girl’s family has not been able to meet with any official from the hospital or the doctor who was treating the children.
Bakraj told Stabroek News that her niece was transferred to the GPHC on December 8th after visiting the Suddie Public Hospital, on the Essequibo Coast.
“She had very hot fever and some bumps on her body and we took her to the Suddie Hospital but they transferred her to Georgetown and she was admitted in the paediatric ward,” she said, while recalling that several tests were done on her niece before she was diagnosed with Leukaemia.
Bakraj noted that the family was considering taking Mendonca overseas for medical attention but they were told by the doctors that her condition is deteriorating and they needed to start treatment.
On January 3rd, she said, they were informed that chemotherapy treatment would start. She said her niece along with Edwards and Seegobin underwent the treatment after which Seegobin, who has been undergoing treatment for over a year and a half, was discharged. Her niece and Edwards remained patients at the hospital.
The aunt recalled that hours after the treatment, her niece began to cry about severe pains about her body. She noted that her niece was paralysed to some extent and the family learnt Edwards was also experiencing a similar reaction. She said a day later, Seegobin’s parents rushed her back to the hospital for medical attention as she two was paralysed.
They were all admitted in the ICU at the hospital.
It was at this point, she said, that the families suspected something had gone wrong during the treatment.
“The procedure, from my understanding, is they administered the injection and then start the chemo treatment… the parents did not witness the injection being administered. It’s just the doctors and the nurses. The same doctor administered the treatment to all three of the kids,” Bakraj said.
According to Bakraj, they have since learnt that the doctor who administered the treatment medication is a trainee doctor and has since been transferred to another department to work.
After a few days in the ICU, Edwards, who had been a cancer patient for a little over a month, was the first to succumb. Seegobin soon followed.
Bakraj said that while her niece is a patient in the ICU, she was moved to the recovery room during the course of last weekend.
“We couldn’t understand why they had to move her. We learnt because they wanted space in the ICU for a patient that was more critical. But, she wasn’t responding and her vitals were low and they look to move her,” she said before noting that she was relocated back to the ICU yesterday and while she remained unconscious, her vitals have seemingly improved.
The aunt accused the administration of the GPHC of ignoring the family after it refused to meet with them yesterday.
“They went for a meeting today and when they reached there, they were asked, ‘What meeting?’ This meeting was postponed from Friday,” Bakraj said, while pointing out that family members are still waiting to meet with the hospital administration as they need answers.
She noted, too, that the family was preparing to write the Ministers of Public Health Volda Lawrence and Dr Karen Cummings about their plight and to ask for their intervention.
“We need some answers. The families just need some answers from the GPHC on what went wrong, causing all three children to suffer like this,” the aunt said from the ICU waiting area at the GPHC yesterday.
Stabroek News yesterday reached out to Seegobin’s family but her mother declined to speak and asked to be contacted on a later date.