Last update: 05-Dec-2013 1:31 am
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Two fired nurses in burnt-baby case get $.4m
Two nurses who were dismissed in 2007 after newborn baby Justin Paul was burnt with a hot water bottle at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital have been awarded a total of $425,000 by the Industrial Court yesterday.
Handing down judgment in the matter between the Public Services Association (PSA) and the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA), industrial court member Vernon E Ashby ordered that Natasha Richardson should be awarded $75,000 and reinstated into the position from which she was dismissed or one similar to it. Richardson, the mother of two, from Fyzabad, was then an Enrolled Nursing Assistant (ENA) when she was dismissed by the NCRHA.
In a telephone interview after the court ruling, Richardson said she remained unemployed for over six years and the pending court matter caused potential employers to turn her down. The other nurse, Janice Charles, who was a nursing assistant when she was dismissed, was awarded $350,000 in compensation.
Charles, from Sangre Grande, was re-employed in January 2011, four years after her dismissal, with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. She did not seek reinstatement at her former job at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital. The nurses’ dismissal was announced by former health minister John Rahael during a post-Cabinet media briefing in May 2007. The announcement came about a month after the baby’s parents complained publicly about the negligence at the hospital.
“The nurse who instructed the ENA to put the waterbag next to the baby without proper protection obviously was negligent,” Rahael said then. Justin, one of twin boys born prematurely on April 17, was burnt after a hot water bottle, wrapped in a towel, was placed in his incubator to keep him warm. Ashby yesterday recalled his first judgment in the matter on February 1 which found the nurses’ dismissals to be unfair.
PSA’s attorney Anthony Bullock said it was a good award handed down by the Industrial Court. In response to the court’s ruling Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan in a telephone interview yesterday, commended the union for standing behind the nurses and called on the RHAs to follow due process and “not succumb to TV-show pressures.”
Khan said people went on television and called on government ministers to fire people without due process but the judgment showed what could happen in the long run. He said the nurses were disciplined without a fair hearing.
What happened to Baby Justin:
The court’s February judgment said the undisputed facts were that on April 17, 2007, Richardson and Charles were working the night shift at the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital. At 2.10 am the Paul twins were admitted to the unit and as part of their treatment, warm saline bags were used to maintain their body temperature.
At 5.30 am, a doctor discovered a burn on Justin’s upper and lower arm. According to the judgment, it was clarified in court that one of the twins assigned to Richardson did not suffer injury. It said Charles admitted it was she who attended to Justin. She said she unwrapped the baby from the blanket with the hot water bottle keeping him warm for a technician to do an X-ray.
She said she had to step out of the cubicle during the X-ray for Justin and his brother and when she re-entered she found Justin had already been re-wrapped. She said she did not know who re-wrapped him.
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