(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN).-Guyanese national Vidya Bachu decided to leave the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, with her ailing husband Jeetindra Sookram although he was being attended to by nurses.
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan made the statement during a press conference at the ministry at Park Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. He also said there was no longer a need to fill out the “pink form”, a financial-obligation statement to be signed on accessing emergency care. “Any person, whether resident or non-resident, who presents himself before any Accident and Emergency Department in any public health care institution in T&T will be treated,” Khan said. Bachu claimed Sookram was denied medical treatment because he was a foreigner.
Khan said at no time was Bachu advised that a failure to pay would result in a denial of further treatment for her husband. Khan said in 2004, the Government at that time decided that services would be free for all nationals and permanent residents of T&T. He added: “From the information received, the patient was attended to and treatment commenced in accordance with our established policy and procedures regarding the treatment of persons presenting themselves with chest pains. “Notwithstanding, in light of the misunderstanding on the part of the relative, and to ensure that there is no repeat of any misunderstanding, I have directed all RHAs cease the requirement of the filling out of the financial-obligation statement at the time of accessing emergency care.”
He said the internationally accepted practice for public hospitals was that they must act reasonably in their decision to treat patients. Asked whether people were billed after signing the “pink form”, Khan said: “In the early days some people were asked to pay but in the last couple of years there has not been anyone.” Khan has asked chairman of the North Central Regional Health Authority Dr Shehenaz Mohammed to investigate. He said when he got the report any further action that might be deemed necessary would be taken. Asked whether there was concern between the relations between Guyana and T&T Khan said: “There was a lot of concern based on the reporting that was seen in the media. “The patient was never really denied treatment so this is why I called the press conference to maintain the relationship between Guyana and Trinidad in this manner.”
…but wife says: Khan not told truth
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan is either lying or has not been told the truth about the circumstances leading to the death Jeetindra Sookram says Vidya Bachu. Sookram, 35, died last Thursday in the car park of a private doctor’s office in Charlieville after he was reportedly refused emergency treatment at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope. Sookram, who was in Trinidad on a two-week vacation with Bachu, was taken to hospital suffering from chest pains. An autopsy yesterday at the EWMSC showed he died from a massive heart attack. Bachu said in an attempt to save her husband’s life, she left the hospital to seek alternative help after staff refused to provide further attention when they realised he was a Guyanese national. At a news conference yesterday, Khan denied Bachu’s account of the tragedy.
He said investigations revealed she refused to fill out a “pink form”, but she was not told failure to pay would result in the denial of further treatment. In an earlier interview with the T&T Guardian, North Central Regional Health Authority chairman Dr Shehenaz Mohammed said there was no policy that non-nationals could be turned away from emergency care because they were unable to pay. Bachu denied refusing to fill out the “pink form” obligating her to pay for Sookram’s treatment. She said she was never given any form to sign or fill out, and Sookram was never registered as a patient. Instead, she said, when she tried to register him with his passport as a form of identification but it was given back to her when it was noted he was a non-national.
“They never asked me his name or his age. They just give me back his passport and said nothing. If you don’t register a person, how could you know his medical history or what he is allergic to?
“They are making it sound as though I took him and leave. That is a lie. They turned me away. I did not leave on my own. If they had told me to hold on, we are going to look after him, I would not have left because he was in a lot of pain. He could hardly talk.” Bachu also went to the Guyanese Consulate yesterday where she met with consul Ernie Ross to make arrangements for Sookram’s body to be flown back to his home at Wakenaam. She said his body was at Guide’s Funeral Home, Couva, and if all went well he should be flown home tomorrow.
Bachu said she intended to write a full report on the entire episode which she would share with the media.