Christine Sumrah and Ricardo Arjune.

KEVON [email protected]

As the rain poured in the wee hours of Indian Arrival Day, a Cedros mother, in search of emergency care, had to deliver her baby in the front seat of her family’s car. Recently, the Ministry of Health repurposed the Point Fortin Hospital to cater strictly to COVID-19 patients and converted the old Area Hospital to a step-down facility.

It meant that when Christine Sumrah began suffering excruciating pains, the only emergency care facility was 36km away in San Fernando. Sumrah, 33, lives with her husband Ricardo Arjune and sons in Granville but decided to stay with relatives in Cap-de-Ville, Point Fortin, to be closer to medical care.

At her last clinic visit, medical staff instructed her to go to the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) when the time reached. Sumrah was due last week, but around 3 am Monday, she began experiencing labor pains. The family called for an ambulance, but the dispatcher told them that none was available. Her sister-in-law Kelene Arjune said because Sumrah felt the baby nearing, they decided to go to the Point Fortin Hospital as it was an emergency. However, despite explaing this at the entrance, they were reportedly turned away and the security guards advised them to go to the San Fernando General Hospital. Kelene said they even called the Point Fortin Police Station for an escort or assistance, but an officer said they could not provide any. With rain pouring heavily on the way to San Fernando, Arjune had to drive slowly. As they reached Otaheite around 4 am, their third child decided it was time to come out. “She said she was feeling the baby coming. The car did not even completely stop, and I jumped out of the backseat. She was sitting in front, and she put her legs up, and we could see the baby’s head, and it was all so crazy and surreal,” Kelene said. As Sumrah pushed, Kelene could see the umbilical cord wrapped around her nephew’s body, preventing him from emerging from the birth canal. With First Aid being the closest training she has to medical training, she had to unravel the cord from under the baby’s arm. “I had to follow her instructions to make him cry: put my finger in his mouth and try to touch his nose until he did, and once we heard the crying, we jumped back in the car.” With a dispatcher on the phone guiding her, Kelene used the string of a face mask to tie Sumrah’s umbilical cord until they got to the hospital. “Her legs remained up on the dashboard, baby on her. She was in the front seat, and I am in the backseat hovering over them.” After reaching the San Fernando General Hospital, the family had to wait as there was no gurney available to get Sumrah and the baby out of the car. Despite the crazy and scary ideal, the baby boy was in good health. However, the family is questioning the decision to leave the Borough without an emergency care facility, especially during a pandemic and State of Emergency. “What if something had gone wrong? And I think that better could be done right now. I understand the COVID situation, and I empathise. I mean, with my little miracle experience now, I am traumatised. I understand what doctors, nurses, and support staff are going through. But other emergency cases need attention,” Kelene said. If Sumrah was at home, it would take about 90 minutes for the 55 km drive. Kelene questioned what would be the fate of someone living Icacos needing urgent care. Icacos is 72 km away with a minimum two-hour drive. “We need that kind of care in the South-West peninsula. It just cannot be all about COVID because emergencies can happen anytime, just as this did. It is beyond our wildest dreams to think that this would have happened,” said Kelene.

In response, the SWRHA said it previously advised the public and burgesses of Point Fortin and environs that due to the service realignment of its Point Fortin facilities, emergency care is available at the San Fernando General Hospital and and Siparia District Health Facility (SDHF).

It said there are extended hours for walk-in services provided at the Point Fortin Health Centre.But at 3 am, all health centres in the area were closed, and the only other option was the Siparia District Health Facility, 38 km away.

Responding to people who suggested the Siparia District Health Facility , Kelene said it meant they would have had the baby in Erin. While the family is not asking for the ministry to revert the hospital to general medicine, they want a facility that offers emergency care on a 24-hour basis. She said if the baby was not delivered healthily, this would be a tragically different story. Several residents said it was worrisome that ambulances were not available for emergency cases, especially with a few industrial facilities between Point Fortin and La Brea.