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Docs’ fear

Sanka Price

Docs’ fear

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THE Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) could face a major lawsuit if any critically ill children with heart disease should die during the suspension of paediatric cardiologist Dr Richard Ishmael from that institution.
This fear has been raised by consultants at the QEH and was confirmed as a justifiable worry by a senior attorney.
This is the latest twist to the impact of the suspension of the island’s lone paediatric cardiologist, Ishmael, on December 10 for using a hospital letterhead on November 17 to address a concern involving Dr Alfred Sparman and Minister of Health Donville Inniss, which is now a matter of litigation between the three.
Emergency meeting
The QEH’s consultants raised their concern in an emergency meeting of the heads of clinical departments held on December 16 at 3:30 p.m. in the Nursing Office conference room at the hospital.
In a copy of the draft minutes obtained by the DAILY NATION, the question of increased risk to the hospital was raised.
“Drs [Clyde] Cave and [Stephen] Moe responded that the consultant in Clinical Risk Management (CCRM) had informed CEO [Dr Dexter James] that this was the highest level of risk [a score of 25 according to the risk matrix equal red] as the starting event was the decision to suspend paediatric cardiology services in the hospital, and the possible consequences, included preventable death from cardiac pathology.
“The CCRM further advised that the exposure to this risk would be prolonged as in peadiatric cases, the time for potential litigation was 18 [or 25] years,” stated item seven of the Minutes.
One legal source said that the doctors had a right to be concerned.
“Anybody who is taking part in the management of these critically sick children must be concerned as all of them are in the potential cross hairs of a lawsuit if any of these children die,” said the attorney, who declined to be named.
He explained that by establishing a position of consultant paediatric cardiologist in the first place, the QEH recognises that a specialist who deals with children with heart disease was the best medical option as against just having a consultant cardiologist who deals with adult cases.
“With the suspension of this paediatric cardiologist at a time when the hospital has critical cardiac paediatric cases, if one of them dies and it can be shown that the optimal care was not given, and their deaths may have been preventable in normal circumstances, then the QEH could be held liable.
“That is why I suspect the hospital moved to get a paediatric cardiologist from overseas to advise them through the telemedicine service.
That is an implicit recognition by the institution that they need those specialist paediatric cardiologist services.
“That the consultants involved with the management of the children do not think this telemedicine is adequate for their needs presents another challenge for the QEH,” the attorney said.
His latter point refers to a memo written by Cave to James on December 23 telling him that “the current solution of using telemedicine to consult with
Dr Peter Gaskin is not an acceptable replacement for the trained hands, ears, and judgment of a paediatric cardiologist who can actually manage a patient in person. The cardiac health of children of Barbados in the public service remains in jeopardy”. (SP)