THE DETAILS of the case ring true to anybody who has been exposed to the public healthcare system.
According to lawyers representing Soorsatee Bassaw, 69, she suffered a stroke last year after medical officials at the Mt Hope Hospital made a big mistake. She was supposed to be given drugs for an infection. Instead, she was given seizure medication. The results were, unsurprisingly, disastrous.
If proven true, this case would represent an instance of utter humiliation for the North Central Regional Health Authority. Carbamazepine and Carbimazole may look similar to the layman. But it is the job of health officials to know the difference.
But Bassaw’s grievances do not end there. According to the lawsuit, the situation was compounded by the failure of nurses to heed warnings raised by her family. The nurses allegedly ignored the family’s concerns flippantly and, apparently without conducting checks or seeking advice from a doctor, informed relatives that Bassaw’s deterioration was due to the withdrawal of blood pressure medication. Condescension, it seems, was added to negligence.
If this matter proceeds, it will be essential for the court to consider the regional health authority’s account of the facts. Only by hearing the other side can the court get to the truth. In the meanwhile, it is hoped there are enough systems in place to ensure errors such as the one alleged cannot occur. The last thing patients should have to contend with is the possibility that the medication handed to them in the little plastic cup might kill them.
Notwithstanding the investment of billions, a suite of inquiries, several expert reports, and a bevy of reforms, the quality of care in our hospitals remains below an acceptable standard. While the Minister of Health holds ultimate responsibility for matters under his portfolio, he cannot be expected to micro-manage every single person in the public health sector. And he should not have to. Yet, systems and procedures should have been in place long ago to ensure people are treated with the degree of humane care expected of any institution that is dedicated to saving lives.
The deeper question is why are some people working in the health sector if they do not have the basic aptitudes required? Why are so many of our medical professionals unprofessional? And, if the allegations in this case are borne out, incompetent and discourteous?
We have no doubt there are many skilled and hard-working public servants in the system. The problem is the cases in which the opposite is true multiply daily. Very often the problem is the inability of ordinary patients to access the system’s pockets of excellence.
With so many expensive million-dollar lawsuits pending against the State, why must things come to this yet again? Why can’t all stakeholders come together to implement the standards we truly deserve? It’s time to get our act together.