The family of 71-year-old Diego Martin mother of four and grandmother of five, Claire Gill, who died at hospital on Carnival Monday because she allegedly could not source blood from the Blood Bank, wants the blood chit donation system to be replaced to prevent other families from losing their loved ones to the blood for money process.
Gill was admitted to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital for suspected internal bleeding on March 2 around 11 pm and medical tests were conducted. She died on March 4 at 4.04 pm. Her death certificate indicated she died from septicemia, infective endocarditis, pneumonia upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage and secondary to duodenal ulcer and hypertension.
Family members contend, however, that it was a lack of blood for Gill that was responsible for her demise during her emergency procedure last Sunday to try and stop the bleeding in her stomach.
Speaking to the Sunday Guardian, one of Gill’s relatives said, “When we visited her Monday morning, we noticed her condition was deteriorating. We asked a doctor what was her status because she was hooked up to the machinery monitoring her vitals, which were pretty low; 91 over 34 for a hypertensive patient.
“She had a pacemaker implanted on December 14, we were willing to donate blood on Monday, however, the blood bank was closed, but the blood bank where blood was disbursed was open but they were asking for chits which we didn’t have,” the relative, who did not want to be named, said.
“The entire family is blood compatible with her; O positive, six members of the family were eligible to donate blood but weren’t given the opportunity.”
The relative said she wanted the chit system to change as something was clearly wrong, and ultimately the doctors didn’t treat Gill with the urgency she deserved.
She surmised that the doctors weighed her chances of survival and made a medical decision, given her pacemaker and her age that Gill might not make it and the valuable blood should go to a younger person.
The woman said the clinic gave Gill an appointment on April 17, her birthday, adding the family felt that four months was too long from the pacemaker implant date for her to wait as something could go wrong.
She said the two doctors who performed the operation told her that the overuse of aspirin tended to wear the lining of the stomach and it “could be a possible cause for her death.”
The relative claimed Gill needed about three to four pints of blood to come up to a stable blood level to survive but only received one pint. She said Gill was admitted with a blood count of five when ideally it should have been at 11.
Another family member asked why Gill wasn’t given the much-needed blood and attention as swiftly as a person with a gunshot wound? He questioned if she was indeed stabilised how was the prognosis different and her sudden death?
He said it was alleged that hospital personnel tried calling the Blood Bank for more blood but this never materialised in time to save her life. The man said even during the discussion with the pathologist, she said even if the family had chits there was no guarantee of getting the required blood, even if it was Gill’s type, as there was a shortage of blood in the bank and an unwillingness of Trinidadians to donate blood.
NWRHA boss: Doctors did their best
North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) CEO Wendy Ali says doctors at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital did all they could to save the life of Claire Gill. She, however, denied Gill’s death was as a result of the unavailability of blood.
Commenting of Gill’s family’s claims, Ali said “We are very sympathetic on the passing of Mrs Gill. However, the postmortem revealed and was reflected in her death certificate that the cause of death was not directly related to haemorrhage or bleeding.
“She did receive a blood transfusion, they did request to provide further blood if required. However, an emergency procedure had been done by the doctors on Mrs Gill on the Sunday morning which they (family) were unaware of to stop the bleeding, which was successful.
“Mrs Gill died as a result of her underlying conditions, there were other issues, there were complications but of course I can’t discuss that.”
Ali confirmed that the blood collection unit of the PoSGH Blood Bank was closed on Carnival Monday and Tuesday because of Carnival festivities and there was no way the authority could have kept it open.
However, she said the blood bench was open if there was a need for the urgent collection of blood and the hospital could have facilitated it, but in this case that was not required. She said the NWRHA did an after-action report of its Carnival activities which revealed that there were no deaths over the Carnival period which were as a direct result of the unavailability of blood.
Ali said in Gill’s case the authority was satisfied she was managed properly and it was unfortunate that she passed away. She said the authority extended condolences to Gill’s family during their period of loss.
Ali said there were numerous factors which also affected the availability of blood, included a rare blood type.
She noted that as Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh recently said in Parliament, one cannot force people to donate blood so availability and blood were contingent on people coming forward and donating blood via the free donation service.
During debate the National Budget debate Parliament last, Deyalsingh pointed out that the chit, credit and transitional credit system of blood distribution and collection was inequitable and dangerous and people were being forced to pay for blood donations in life-saving situations involving family members. He said then T&T will be moved to a 100 per cent voluntary altruistic system of blood donation which will eliminate the need for people to go to risky donors and the Pan American Health Organisation had been invited to provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Health.