Medical Council to investigate GPH chemotherapy deaths

The Medical Council of Guyana has taken the initiative to carry out an investigation into the deaths of three children who died at the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) after they received pre-chemotherapy treatment.

Chairman of the Medical Council Dr Navindranauth Rambaran told Stabroek News that while no direct complaint was made, the council took it on itself to launch an investigation, “noting the gravity and circumstances” of the case.

Rambaran explained that the Council has requested a detailed report from the Georgetown Public Hospital and was given assurance of receiving a copy. However, he said that the hospital is still in the process of observing its internal protocols. Rambaran expects the Council to be furnished with the report after the institution would have observed the necessary protocols.

During the telephone interview, he pointed out that it will be premature of him to comment on possible sanctions since the Council has not seen the report.

In January, following the deaths of seven-year-old Curwayne  Edwards, who died on January 14th, three-year-old Roshini Seegobin, of Enmore, East Coast Demerara, who died on January 18th and six-year-old Sharezer Mendonca, of Queenstown, Essequibo Coast, who died on January 24th, the Georgetown Public Hospital launched an investigation. The three children had leukemia and were treated by the same team of doctors.

The investigation found that the medication was incorrectly administered and standard operating procedures were not followed.

At a recent press conference where the findings of the investigation were announced, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Karen Gordon-Boyle explained that the protocols for the administering of the pre-chemotherapy drugs to the children were not adhered to. The drugs, which were previously not publicly named, were identified as vincristine and methotrexate. Gordon-Boyle said vincristine was administered intrathecally (administration for drugs via an injection into the spinal canal) rather than intravenously (administration of drugs through the vein with an injection).

The three doctors who were directly involved were relieved of their duties and subsequently sent on administrative leave on January 29th and they currently remain on leave.

Chairperson of the GPHC Board Kessaundra Alves had said that the hospital’s board of directors will have to discuss the findings and the recommendations before deciding the way forward.

“…Contractually, we can determine who works at GPHC but who’s licensed to practice medicine in Guyana is a matter for the Medical Council of Guyana to handle,” Alves said. She added that the GPHC has “done as far as we could have, pending administrative leave, pending a review of these reports by the Board of Directors at the GPHC.”

The hospital suspected something was amiss after the doctors recognised that the children’s health conditions were deteriorating. The investigations revealed that when the medical practitioners checked the records, they realised that a mistake was made. As a result, it terminated the use of the drugs for pre-chemotherapy treatment and launched the investigation.

Mendonca’s family has been considering taking legal action against the hospital for its negligence and has since requested her medical records.

“The families are still upset. This is still a very perturbing situation. They had received some of this information before; it is just that we had to formally inform the families and they have expressed that they don’t want this to be a recurring situation, they will like us to make policies,” said Alves following a meeting with the families of the deceased children.

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