Health Minister: The death of the babies did happen

Minister of Health, Nickolas Steele remains adamant that three babies did die at the General Hospital in St. George’s and branded as “unfortunate” statements made by the Grenada Nursing Association (GNA) including a demand for him to make a public apology in the media.

Hon Nickolas Steele – statements made by the Nursing body are “heartless”

At last week’s post-Cabinet Press Briefing, the Health Minister announced that three babies died at the hospital within a 24-hour period – an occurrence he stated was the fault of the system.

Minister Steele also pointed his fingers at the nursing staff and doctors at the hospital and hinted at the prospects of disciplinary measures should be taken to ensure that the situation does not reoccur.

President of the nursing body, Patricia Strachan was seen on a local news station expressing her disappointment in the statements made.

She said what the Minister spoke of did not happen, and demand an apology to the nursing association.

The Senior Cabinet Minister responded Tuesday by sticking to his guns and saying that there is nothing to apologise for as the situation did happen.

“I hear statements made last week by certain individuals within, I think from the Nursing association and I think those statements are very unfortunate. All I would say to the comments that have been made is that they are very unfortunate, and they are heartless to the victims to deny that anything happened or to question as to whether it all happened on (one) day…”, he said.

“…(It …really doesn’t affect any comfort to the families. The fact of the matter is that it happened and anyone who would come forward and try to focus on whether it all happened on one day or not is heartless,” he added.
Minister Steele also reacted to comments made on the issue by the NDC Caretaker for St George North-west, Ali Dowden, who condemned the Minister’s decision to appoint an independent committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.

He told reporters that Dowden is seeking to gain favour from the population.

“The NDC representative is looking for votes or looking for favour from the population. In the meantime, between now and the election, we have a mandate to the people to serve the people, and in that mandate we have a right to form a committee to investigate and advise”, he said.

“The NDC lacks the ability to listen to the population and should’ve listened to what I have said. It still relies on the Public Service to carry out the discipline – that’s the entity that is responsible for discipline within the Public Service and the Nursing Council and the Medical Association”, he added.

Dowden is contending that the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) is responsible for the running of the General hospital and the law makes no provisions for an independent body to get involved in its affairs.

According to Steele, a minister or government can set up a committee to investigate into hospital matters.

He said this can be done in order “to give comfort to the population that (the body) is independent of the investigations that will go on within the ministry but it allows the public a certain peace of mind”.

He went on: “In some instances, there is a belief that a government will try to cover up a wrong doing, and therefore,  by appointing an independent committee to investigate and give an opinion, I think it’s forward thinking and I am actually glad that they have issues with it because it shows that they are not forward thinking, but elections could be what they (NDC) are focusing on instead of health care”.

According to Minister Steele, the details surrounding  the deaths of the three babies are unbecoming and something must be done as the parents had expectations and were failed by the system.

“The details are extremely disturbing in terms of how these individuals were treated by the system, and the failure to have proper procedures followed for these individuals and it has to be dealt with face on.

“We have to find ways to make sure that (one): a certain amount of comfort is given to these family members. We can’t undo what was done, but we at least are obliged to show them that something has been done to make sure that it doesn’t happen again to someone else.

The senior government minister disclosed that on Tuesday itself, two of the parents who lost babies were being engaged and that they have started the process of counseling for the affected families.

“I just left a meeting with the Head of Nursing of Obstetrics Department, the PS (Permanent Secretary), and the Chief Nursing Officer, and the CMO with two parents of one of the incidents”, Steele said.

“…We are working together to make sure that we do not have or these weaknesses in these systems don’t continue – to make sure that we engage all involved – that we deal with more compassion. We are all human beings when within the system there are shortcomings”, he added.

He lamented the failure of the health system to meet the expectations of the Grenadian public, as well as our senior professionals within the Ministry of Health (and) that we engage immediately”.

“…So this is the beginning of the counseling/consultation. We would have other entities on the ground from next week, actually from Friday – they will be here to begin consultation in terms of making changes to the way we deal with the public, the way we put certain best practices, but more importantly as well as to evaluate what we’re doing and find further ways of improving,” he said.

Minister Steele expressed the view that instead of calling for him to apologise the situation called for an apology to the families themselves for what they went through and it should not be something that is thrown under the rug.

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