A High Court judge has recommended the establishment of a Negligence Review Board to deal with concerns regarding the treatment of patients in public health institutions.
Justice Frank Seepersad made the suggestion as he dismissed a medical negligence claim brought by a Pat Lewis-Caesar, a teacher, against the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) following the death of her 80-year-old father Darvey Lewis.
In his ruling during a virtual hearing the judge found that her father’s death was due to dengue-related complications and not negligence.
He, however, asked that consideration be given to the establishment of a Negligence Review Board within the public health system to review legitimate concerns by citizens about the treatment meted out to loved ones.
He said, “It is somewhat outrageous to expect that someone who goes into the public health system would have to source and pay for medical opinions if they intend to pursue a medical negligence claim. This is odd and unfair given that many who seek public healthcare do not have the financial resources to fund this type of litigation.”
Seepersad said the board could serve as a check and balance and assist in ensuring that the best possible care is afforded to citizens.
Lewis was admitted to the Accident and Emergency Department of the hospital on October 18, 2014, after three days of fever, pain, and swelling of his left foot and right hand. He had a ten-year history of hypertension.
According to Lewis-Caesar’s case, he was administered Olfen and collapsed in the bathroom. He was warded and further tests showed he had thrombocytopenia and a platelet count of 74. He diagnosed with dengue with thrombocytopenia and syncope due to hypotension.
According to Lewis-Caesar, he was prescribed Olfen.
Two days later, her father died. Lewis-Caesar contended that the use of Olfen catalysed her father’s demise as it was known in the medical arena that the drug is not suitable for elderly people with pre-existing hypertension.
An autopsy said his death was due to acute left heart failure, thrombocytopenia with hemorrhage within the stomach, kidney, spleen, and myocardium and hypertensive cardiomegaly.
The TRHA confirmed that Olfen was prescribed to alleviate Lewis’ pain, but the only dosage he was given on October 18. However, the defendant countered that the administration of Olfen could not have negatively impacted Lewis’ health and denied that his death was due to negligence of its personnel, servant, and/or agents.
The judge found that the claimant failed to demonstrate on a balance of probabilities that the TRHA breached its duty of care or that Lewis’ death was as a result of negligence.
Applauding the TRHA for giving Lewis exceptional care, monitoring and attention, the judge stated, “The treatment he received demonstrates that notwithstanding the many limitations which operate within the public health care system, it is possible for citizens to get quality medical attention. It is unfortunate that the deceased did not survive but his death cannot be attributed to medical negligence. The evidence suggests that his death was due to dengue-related complications.”
The parties were ordered to bear their own costs.
Lewis-Caesar was represented by attorney Cheryll Pierre while attorneys Lennox Phillips Jr and Myrna Walters appeared for the interests of the TRHA.