Health Minister reprimands MSJMC over burnt baby saga

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Minister of Health Molywn Joseph has strongly rebuked the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) over its handling of the incident involving burnt babies.

The minister held a press conference yesterday and stated he was irate that the hospital disregarded his directive to hold a press conference to address the matter. Its failure to do so, he believes, made the whole situation worse than it needed to be.

He said when he “made a request of the management of Mount St. John’s Medical Center to hold a press conference and to come to the public to answer their questions and concerns, that request was not adhered to. Instead of coming to the public, Mount St. John’s Medical Centre issued a press release, which I must be very frank, had the potential of creating more doubts about the commitment of transparency – against my advice and suggestion.”

Joseph referenced section 10(1) of the Mount St. John’s Medical Center Act of 2009, conferring unto the Minister of Health an ability to give general policy directives, stating “…the Minister may give general directions as to the policy to be followed by the Board in the performance of its functions, as [it] appear to the Minister to be necessary in the public interest, and the Board shall give effect to those directions.”

Said the Minister, “The direction I gave to the board was to come to the public and be transparent. The board did not adhere to those directions.”

He noted that Section 10 (2) of the 2009 Act preventing him from interfering with the daily operation of the hospital. “I could not say to the board ‘this is what you do’; I can only say ‘this is the policy of the government and you are required to follow those policies’.”

Minister Joseph is of the view that medical institutions should not be afraid to own up to any mistakes made as it can help the institution improve its services.

“What might be overlooked is this: there is no health facility in the world that does not have to deal with errors – does not matter how reputable the facility is – the question is what do you do when there are errors,” he said, adding, “What must be recognized is that it provides an opportunity for you to look at the manner in which you are dispensing services and should be a learning process.”

The minister believed the failure of the hospital to be transparent and open to the public about the issue was a major disservice to the staff at the medical center.

“There are doctors and nurses involved that provide excellent service, and the failure to come out and give a report on what actually happened could very well result in undermining the excellent service that is being provided daily,” he said.

He added that within the next few days he will hold a press conference with the pediatrician responsible for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to provide clarity and further details on what exactly caused the burning of the babies.

A statement issued by hospital was publicly criticized for its failure to directly address claims by four mothers that their babies suffered horrific burns to different parts of their bodies while in neonatal care at the NICU.

The press statement neither accepted nor denied responsibility for the injuries the babies manifested while in the NICU, only stating “the particulars of each case cannot be revealed under the ongoing process” but “parallel efforts have been triggered to simultaneously further educate personnel, and appropriately counsel those close to the situation.”

When OBSERVER media first broke the news, three mothers showed the newsroom images of their babies, claiming that the hospital did not provide full disclosure about the incident.

Joseph stated that he wanted the hospital to take the lead on the matter before taking matters into his own hands.

Last week, the minister said government would pay for the medical treatment of at least two of the babies. At Tuesday’s press conference, he reported that the two babies were in good condition.

The third mother who alleged wrongdoing by the hospital is currently fighting an appeal by MSJMC, after she won the initial case in the Magistrates’ Court.

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