WE WELCOME the inquiry launched by the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) into the circumstances surrounding the death of businessman and former media worker Gavin Ramdial. The NWRHA should identify what steps, if any, could have been taken to ensure Ramdial was subject to treatment of the highest professional standards and it must furthermore conduct a review to ensure its staff engage with patients in a manner that is acceptable.
To be clear, we are not saying the question of responsibility for Ramdial’s death is one which must resolved definitively by this inquiry. Indeed, if this matter heads to court or arbitration that would be a question of how the evidence is resolved. Rather, we are of the view that the preliminary reports of what occurred at the St James Infirmary alone merit action, separate and apart from the question of responsibility for the death.
Ramdial was driving along Coronation Street, St James, around 8 pm on Tuesday when he had a debilitating medical episode – believed to be a heart attack or seizure. He crashed into three cars and was found slumped in the driver’s seat. Police from the St James station took Ramdial to the Infirmary, but staff there reportedly quarrelled over Ramdial’s size, describing him as grossly overweight, and as a result he was not put on a stretcher and taken for immediate medical treatment. Unconfirmed reports also claimed there was no doctor on duty to attend. Ramdial was later pronounced dead by a doctor who was called to the police car where he lay. What is worrisome about these reports is the possibility of medical professionals being openly hostile to a citizen in need at precisely the moment when their professionalism is needed most.
Chronic non-communicable or lifestyle diseases are prevalent in this country, yes, and they are largely preventable or manageable if people are able to change habits or turn their life around. But it is not the place of any medical official — especially one paid for by the State — to vacillate over treatment while engaging in prejudice against a patient who presents obvious symptoms of distress whether the cause is poor lifestyle or otherwise. Regardless of whether or not these medics could have made a meaningful intervention at that stage, their reported conduct was reprehensible and calls, on its own, for disciplinary action.
It could well be the case that with minutes sometimes meaning the difference between life and death unprofessional conduct can cost a life. If that is what occurred in this case it would make an already unsatisfactory matter deeply grave. The NWRHA needs to assure the public that poor treatment of the kind that has been reported will not occur. Such an assurance can only be guaranteed if proper training and/or disciplinary action is undertaken to ensure such gross misconduct is stamped out.