Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has been severely criticised for “trying to blame” the non-functioning of the CT scanners at Port of Spain General Hospital and Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex on Covid-19 factors.
“The minister’s attempt to blame this on Covid-19 is a poor excuse and an attempt to hide mismanagement and incompetence,” Fyzabad MP Lackram Bodoe said in a statement yesterday.
In response to questions about the death of 34-year-old parliamentary procedural clerk assistant, Sheranne Samuel, Deyalsingh on Monday stated that Covid-19 caused a delay in getting the parts necessary to repair the CT scanners.
Samuel passed away from a massive stroke, days after going to the Port of Spain General Hospital with a debilitating headache, nausea and dizziness at a time when the CT scanner was down.
Systems must not break down
In his statement yesterday, Bodoe expressed his deepest condolences to the family, friends and co-workers of Samuel.
Bodoe, who was vice-chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAAC), said she was humble, efficient, quiet, effective, diligent, dedicated and “truly a gem of a person”.
“Whilst her death was tragic, the circumstances surrounding the delay in making a diagnosis because of the non-functioning CT scanners at both the PoS General Hospital and the Eric Williams Medical Complex speaks volumes about the challenges that our healthcare professionals face in the health sector.
Whilst the Minister of Health would have us believe Covid-19 is responsible for all the current ills in the health sector, the Regional Health Authorities have been unable to fulfill their mandate under this Government because of poor management and lack of accountability.
“Although symptoms and clinical signs still comprise the foundation of diagnosis in patients with neurological conditions, it is accepted best practice that an early CT scan better guides the medical team in providing the most appropriate and timely treatment,” Bodoe stated.
“Having to wait 19 hours for a CT scan in the circumstances reported in the newspaper is in my view unacceptable. Machines will break down but systems must never break down,” Bodoe added.
Bodoe recalled that under the People’s Partnership government there was a practice of sending patients to private hospitals.
“Under the People’s Partnership, the External Patient Programme was developed to provide a contingency for such cases to be outsourced in a timely intervention in exactly such circumstances. The question is why was this avenue not utilised earlier?” Bodoe asked.
Mark: Medical negligence
Senator Wade Mark said it was “astonishing, incredible and startling that a minister of health, in the face of an unfortunate tragedy that snatched the life of a gentle giant in the person of Sheranne, could easily dismiss the absolute ineptness, incompetence and mismanagement of the health resources under his command and blame it on Covid-19. That is the joke of the century”.
He said the developments surrounding Samuel’s death were tantamount to medical negligence.
Mark said he interacted with Samuel as a (former) House speaker, as a member of the Senate and as a member of several committees, including the PAAC.
He described Samuel “as an ordinary individual who performed extraordinary tasks and with a deep sense of purpose and sensitivity, a tireless and selfless public servant” who worked for the people of this country, “even when in pain and discomfort, a thoughtful, caring, humble, selfless, intelligent and hard working human being”.
“We have lost a wonderful individual,” he said, adding that her contribution would be remembered.
Conscientious and engaging
Independent Senator Anthony Vieira has offered his “deepest sympathies” to Samuel’s mother, Susanna Joefield and the rest of her family.
Vieira, a chairman of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on State Enterprises, noted that Samuel assisted the committee.
“Sheranne and I would usually arrive first, with time to chat....Through those discussions and the way Sheranne conducted herself, I discovered a bright, conscientious and engaging young woman, representing the best of her generation. A daughter you have every right to be most proud of,” Vieira told Joefield in a letter.
Bhoe: Failed by a system
Former MP, Dr Bhoe Tewarie, who chaired the Public Accounts Committee, said he worked with Samuel on many occasions and she was always kind, helpful, professional and polite.
“It disturbed me immensely when I saw that such a young and beautiful person just died when the last time I saw her she was walking in the Parliament building. And reading now the reason why she may have died, I must say I am a little upset that a public servant who has given so much has been failed by a system that does not seem to care enough.”
He offered condolences to her family, the parliamentary staff and her friends.
Former independent senator Taurel Shrikissoon also paid tribute, recalling that he and Samuel worked together on Joint Select Committees.
However, he said more of her character and personality were revealed when they visited British Columbia for the ParlAmerica Association meeting.
“While no one can discount her professionalism and diligence, she was a caring, compassionate and loving soul who went beyond the call of duty to ensure we were comfortable at all times,” he said.
The Institute of Law and Academic Studies yesterday expressed its “profound grief” as it celebrated the life of its alumna, Samuel, who had completed her LLB at ILAS and was just accepted to Hugh Wooding Law School. “May we remember this beautiful and brilliant soul,” it said.