DATE of birth: May 31, 2021. Place of birth: Inside a car parked on the pavement near Aadi Marketing Ltd, South Oropouche.
This is the reality for a one-day-old baby boy whose mother, from Granville, desperately tried to make it to the San Fernando General Hospital in the absence of accident and emergency (A&E) services in Point Fortin and environs.
Her family is now calling on the Health Ministry and the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) to provide for emergency cases in the area once more.
On May 21, the SWRHA announced the new Point Fortin Hospital will now only house and care for covid19 patients and its A&E department will cease to function. Emergency cases were asked to go to San Fernando or to the Siparia District Health Facility and to contact 811 for emergency ambulance services.
Soon after this announcement, people in Point Fortin and environs – especially Cedros – began voicing their concerns.
Those from Icacos were worried because that hospital is the nearest 24-hour health facility. It takes over an hour to get to the Point Fortin Hospital from Icacos, and getting to San Fernando takes an additional hour.
One Facebook user said, "Better equip Cedros Health Centre for emergency then? At least it’s in between. People can have access to medical care!"
Another said, "This is unacceptable! In emergency cases people from Point Fortin and environs have to go to San Fernando! Madness! Before a person leaves home from Cedros to seek emergency treatment at San Fernando, it's possible they will die before reaching there."
These hypothetical scenarios became reality for Christine Arjoon, now the mother of three, around 3 am on Monday, when she began having contractions.
She and her husband Ricardo were staying with her sister-in-law Kelene Arjoon in Cap-de-Ville, Point Fortin.
Kelene, who is herself five months pregnant, told Newsday the couple woke her up and asked if she could accompany them to San Fernando.
They called the Point Fortin Police Station to say why they would be outside during curfew hours, and Ricardo Arjoon drove.
“So she was getting the pains and then by the time we got into the car, she said, ‘We wouldn’t make it. Call the ambulance.’ So we did, and they said there wasn’t any available and that we should head to San Fernando and see if one will meet us on the way.”
Seconds after that call, Christine began saying the baby’s head had “started coming out.”
Despite knowing the Point Fortin Hospital would only see covid19 patients, they tried their luck there, as they began panicking, but they were turned away by security guards.
“They said, ‘We can’t do anything about it. You have to go Sando.’ And she (Christine) was ready to come out there and have the baby on the pavement. But we were like, ‘Let’s drive and head to Sando.’”
They managed to reach Otaheite and it had just started raining. But Christine said it was time.
“So we just pulled up on the pavement, rain is starting to drizzle…Before the car even stopped, I was outside…She pushed back the car seat and put her two legs up on the dashboard and I could see the baby’s head.
“So Ricardo is there behind me and she’s like, ‘Check to see if the umbilical cord is around the neck.’ So, I just grabbed blankets and towels and by the time she pushed, half of his body was out but the cord was wrapped around his chest. I started to pull it from around his arm and it was still tight on his chest and even though she couldn’t see anything, she just felt for that cord and pulled it over…I don’t know how she had the strength.”
She said Ricardo was doing his best to relay the instructions being given to him on the phone.
By this time, it was after 4 am and there was still no ambulance available to come to their rescue.
So they continued the journey to San Fernando.
“So the dispatcher said, ‘Okay, keep the baby warm and make sure he’s breathing. Meanwhile, my fingers were trembling and Christine was so composed. She just knew she had to get this done.”
She said they used the strings from a newly-opened face mask to tie the umbilical cord.
“Then the dispatcher was like, ‘Be prepared for the afterbirth and I’m like ‘
“So we’re driving and then she started to get the contractions and the afterbirth came out…
"Then when we finally reached in front the hospital, I ran inside and they didn’t have a trolley or attendant available. I had to stand up there for like ten minutes.”
But the security guard was very pleasant and comforting, she said, until a nurse came to their aid.
After this, it was smooth sailing for baby and mother. Christine told Newsday she and the baby are fine and that she would be able to speak once she is discharged from the hospital.
Kelene is now pleading with the SWRHA to make alternative arrangements for emergency cases, as even the old hospital is now a covid19 step-down facility.
“There are other emergencies besides covid19 that can be life or death,” she told Newsday.
She also posted on Facebook, “I cannot sit by and accept this situation for the citizens of deep south. I'm reaching out to social media so that better can be done and so that no one else has to experience such madness! Help me get this to the right people.
“I understand and empathise with the covid situation BUT it is unacceptable that the citizens of Point Fortin and environs have no access to emergency health care. Suggestions: Make the old Point Hospital A&E; make the Health Centre 24 hours for A&E; Private sector, step up.
"We're in this pandemic together. Can't all the oil and gas in this area offer facilities (perhaps Petrotrin Hospital) and other resources for emergencies? I mean if one of these plants/sites had an emergency, where do you think you have to suffer and go?”
She said she does not want anyone else to “go through this nightmare.”
The baby has not yet been named.On Friday, the SWRHA issued a press release saying it was "aware of the concerns expressed by you the residents (of Point Fortin) and is working assiduously to address them.
"An announcement of updated plans for emergency services will be made in the near future."