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Don’t turn away anyone, Khan tells hospitals

By Janelle De Souza Tuesday, April 8 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Health briefing: Chief Medical Officer Dr Clive Tilluckdharry, left, listens as Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan addresses a press conference at the Healt...
Health briefing: Chief Medical Officer Dr Clive Tilluckdharry, left, listens as Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan addresses a press conference at the Healt...

The Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) was yesterday defended by Health Minister Fuad Khan as initial reports suggest the hospital did not deny treatment to, and therefore was not culpable in the death of Guyanese Jeetindra Sookram.

According to reports, Sookram, 35, and his wife, Vidya Bachew came to Trinidad on Tuesday last for a vacation. On Thursday last he began to experience pains about his body and Sookram was taken to the EWMSC in Mt Hope where he was reportedly turned away. He died, according to reports, while being taken to another medical institution. In a press conference at the Ministry of Health, Park Street, Port-of-Spain yesterday, Khan highlighted points from a head consultant at the Accident and Emergency (AE) Department.

Khan noted when Sookram arrived at the A) Department, an ECG was requested while Sookram’s vitals were checked, and blood taken and sent to the lab. When asked to register the patient, a relative produced his Guyanese passport and was consequently asked to fill out a financial obligation statement which is required by foreign nationals. She asked the cost of the procedure, but the clerk could not give a definitive answer and the relative refused to sign the document.

She then left, saying she would return, but never did.

“It is material to note that at no time was the relative advised that a failure to pay would result in a denial of further treatment of the patient,” he said. “In light of the misunderstanding, I have directed that all RHAs cease the requirement of the filling out of the financial obligation statement at the time of accessing emergency care.”

He added, the financial obligation statement or “Pink Form” was rarely filled out in the past few years and even then, no one had been charged. However, while the statement would be discontinued for emergency cases, the Pink Form and the National Health Card would come into play for chronic cases. Khan said it was internationally accepted that public hospitals provide treatment to all emergency cases as seeking alternative care in a time-sensitive emergency could result in permanent injury or death.

“Let me reiterate the policy position of the Ministry of Health and by extension, the Regional Health Authorities, which is in keeping with this internationally accepted practice. Any patient, whether resident or non-resident, who presents himself before any Accident and Emergency Department in any public health care institution in Trinidad and Tobago, will be treated,” he said

In addition, Khan stated, he directed chairman of the North-Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA), Dr Shehenaz Mohammed to conduct an investigation into the incident and submit a report. Upon the receipt of the report, any further necessary action would be taken.

When Newsday spoke with Mohammed, she said the Authority’s Quality Coordinator was in the process of interviewing those involved and writing a report, which was due yesterday afternoon.

She said Sookram’s wife was also asked to go to the hospital to make a formal report to the Office of the CEO so that both sides of the incident could be heard.

“Only then will a determination be made as to whether or not an investigation is necessary,” she said.

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