Minister for Health Nickolas Steele has said he will not apologize for statements he made to the media last week, indicating that three babies in 24 hours had died at the General Hospital in St. George’s.
Amidst an uproar from health workers at the hospital whom the minister ultimately blamed for the supposed deaths, the National Democratic Congress has called on him to publicly apologize for his statements.
Hospital medical staff had claimed that minister Steele’s statements were inaccurate and misleading and that in the spirit of fairness he should retract them.
NDC caretaker for the constituency of St. George North West, Ali Dowden blasted the minister for not following the correct procedures or conducting the basic investigations before making the damning statements. He said that the minister should have solicited information directly from the Chief Medical Officer before his pronouncements.
He added that after making the statements on Tuesday; that on Thursday of the same week, the minister held an emergency meeting with all senior members of staff of the Ministry of Health to do damage control, realizing he had been misinformed regarding the three infant’s deaths.
According to Dowden, following the meeting, the health practitioners called on him to make a public apology through the media.
The NDC caretaker said he must be guided by some critical pieces of legislations, which govern the health sector when addressing the issues of the health sector. He identified the Grenada Hospital’s Authority Act, The Medical Practitioner’s Act and The Medical Officer’s Act saying he would be happy to direct the minister to any other relevant acts.
According to Dowden, information gathered from reliable sources within the Ministry of Health, none of these deaths mentioned by the minister actually took place at the General Hospital during the period that he mentioned.
Dowden said that while minister Steele spoke about setting up a private committee with some private citizens to conduct an investigation, the minister cannot do something like that but must follow the rules that govern the General Hospital and the health sector. He noted that patients’ information is private and confidential; there is a committee, which has been already set up by the law called the Death Review Committee for any relevant case occurring at the general hospital. This committee he said should be the ones conducting any investigations.
Dowden added that the statements made by the health minister have painted the nurses and doctors at the General Hospital in a bad light causing fears and consternation in the public domain, especially among expecting mothers. He called on the minister to make an apology for his misguided and misinformed statements.
However, at last Tuesday’s post cabinet briefing, minister Steele defended his right to set up a private committee saying it is the right thing to do and also declined to issue any apology for his statements.
He said he has nothing to apologize for because although the time period may be wrong, the hospital is in some instances failing to meet the expectations of the public.