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SWRHA to pay damages to medical technician

By AZARD ALI Wednesday, May 21 2008

click on pic to zoom in
Rukhmin  Balgobin...
Rukhmin Balgobin...

AN Emergency Health Service (EHS) medical technician yesterday won a lawsuit in the High Court in which a judge ordered that she be paid damages for lifting a patient 180 pounds heavy and injuring her neck.

Rukhmin Balgobin, 44, claimed that the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) never trained her how to lift heavy patients, or provide apparatus for doing so, and was therefore liable for her injuries.

In a judgement handed down yesterday, Justice Peter Jamadar ruled that the SWRHA failed to train Balgobin in the proper methods and techniques of lifting and moving patients on stretchers. The judge viewed the matter as a breach of contract of its employment of the woman.

Balgobin stated that she never received training on lifting techniques, or loading and unloading patients from stretchers during six weeks of training.

It was on June 19, 2001, when she and another technician responded to a distress call in San Francique, South Trinidad, in which a woman had been unconscious at her home. Having estimated the woman’s weight to be 180 pounds, Balgobin stated that she and her fellow medical technician lifted her on to a stretcher. They then wheeled her to the ambulance. “As I was doing this, I felt a pull on my shoulder. It was a sharp stabbing sensation,” Balgobin stated in her lawsuit.

Balgobin’s pain worsened and an ambulance rushed her to the San Fernando General Hospital where a doctor attended to her. An X-ray showed she suffered a severe neck and shoulder injury.

In a 21-page judgement Justice Jamadar stated that Balgobin maintained she was never trained how to lift patients and transport them on a stretcher, but she felt duty bound to lift the 180-pound patient. “It is part of our training,” Balgobin stated, “that once we make contact with the patient, we must get the person into the ambulance.”

Balgobin’s attorney Edwin Roopnarine, instructed by Robin Ramoutar, sued SWRHA and Tri Star Latin America, which operated the ambulance service.

SWRHA, the judge stated, had disclosed that Tri Star was Balgobin’s employer, but the company refused to respond to the lawsuit and Roopnarine took up judgement in default.

Clarifying the issue of who was Balgobin’s employer, Jamadar stated that according to written correspondence, SWRHA offered the woman employment. “The claimant (Balgobin) went through six weeks of training which took place at the SWRHA’s institutions and training facilities in San Fernando conducted by personnel working at SWRHA. In my opinion, the above evidence proves a clear and unequivocal prima facie case that the claimant was employed by SWRHA,” Jamadar stated.

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