Eye-watering dysfunction

Stephan Thomas - Marvin Hamilton
Stephan Thomas - Marvin Hamilton

OVER time, it has been claimed, workers at regional health authorities have been asked to man longer shifts. But maybe that’s not such a good idea.

The signs of strain are everywhere: in the protests of staff, in mental health issues suffered by medical personnel and in the levels of complications and mortalities subject to legal challenges by members of the public.

One such legal complaint this week has painted an eye-watering picture of dysfunction at the South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA).

A year ago, teenager Stephan Thomas was treated for an eye condition at a clinic of the San Fernando General Hospital. The details of what exactly happened in the course of this treatment, as well as subsequent visits to the clinic, are now potentially facts for a court to disentangle in a case brought by the 14-year-old’s mother, Latoiya Moses.

The family understands a mix-up occurred, with Stephan undergoing a surgical procedure meant for a different patient, Stephon Thomas, who was to be treated for cataract issues.

Seeking answers, lawyers acting for Ms Moses sent a pre-action protocol letter on December 17. More than a month passed and there was no reply.

“They told me his natural lens was damaged and gave me prescriptions,” Ms Moses said on Wednesday, recalling the events last January. Months after that, as Stephan got worse, he underwent more surgery, including one operation in which, Ms Moses came to understand, a lens previously put in her son’s eye was the wrong size.

“I am afraid now to go to the hospital,” she said tearfully on Wednesday. “I have to put my son through this to get attention and it is unfair to us.”

If the details of this case thus far brought to light are shocking, the response of the SWRHA on Wednesday was almost as bad.

In a terse statement, it focused narrowly on whether it had as yet been served the legal letter sent by Ms Moses’s attorneys, saying it had no record of it.

Instead of pledging to look into the case, to reach out to the family, to review its own standards for dealing with complaints and quality issues, it said it would contact the attorney for a copy of the letter.

This alone betrayed the dysfunction alleged.

If the health authorities have been callous to this family, so too has society been reprehensible to young Stephan, who on Wednesday spoke of being made fun of by his friends because of his squinting eyes.

It is ironic that a high-powered committee is now reviewing the standards of care in our hospitals in relation to covid19.

This teenager may have seen, more than most, the real standards in operation in the darkest corners of local healthcare.


"Eye-watering dysfunction"

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