A High Court judge is calling for a Medical Advisory Board to be implemented to assist in negligence claims against public medical institutions.
Justice Frank Seepersad made the call in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday after he dismissed a lawsuit brought by Camille Edwards, a mother of three from Goodwood, Tobago, whose daughter died shortly after being born in 2011.
As he acknowledged that the patients have a burden to produce expert evidence to prove their claims, Seepersad said obtaining such witnesses would be extremely difficult for those who utilised the public health care system.
He added: “The pubic health services are not frequently availed by those who hold positions of prestige or those whose purses are overflowing. The usual user tends to be the citizen who is unable to secure the services of private local or foreign medical treatment.
“When, therefore, an issue as to the nature and method of treatment arises, how can such a person be expected to retain the services of an expert or experts to provide the requisite medical opinions that are required?” Seepersad asked.
He claimed the legal requirement could be considered a impediment to justice.
He added: “There is therefore a dire need to have an independent review board that comprises the necessary medical experts so that allegations of negligence that arise within the public health sector can be reviewed and independent and objective opinions can be generated and forwarded, where necessary, to the courts.”
In her lawsuit, Edwards had claimed doctors at the Scarborough General Hospital were negligent when they delivered her daughter after 27 weeks of pregnancy on March 9, 2011.
She claimed after an emergency C-section procedure her premature baby had to be transfered to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital as there were no working ventilators in Tobago.
She was informed the child had died on arrival in Trinidad after she was discharged from hospital three days later.
In their defence the doctors and the hospital claimed Edwards was aware of the risks of her pregnancy as she admitted that she was a smoker and she had three previous pre-term pregnancies and a series of miscarriages before the birth of her fourth child.
They also contended that despite the lack of ventilators they performed a manual procedure which was just as effective.
While Seepersad criticised the Tobago Regional Health Authority for its lack of basic neonatal equipment, he said the doctors who treated Edwards were not negligent as they did what was “reasonably required in the circumstances.”
As part of his decision Seepersad ordered that Edwards pay the hospital’s legal costs for defending the claim which amounted to $5,000. Edwards was represented by Martin George while Ken Wright defended the doctors and the hospital.