Less than three weeks after Simone Chadee gave birth in the back seat of a car after being turned away by staff at the Marabella Health Centre, a mother and her ailing baby have allegedly been denied treatment at the same facility because it was about to close.
Marabella resident Sunita Balgobin shared her ordeal on Facebook on Friday after she and her one-year-old son were denied care at the facility. In response to her Facebook post, many users took the opportunity to comment about the poor medical service they have received.
Yesterday, Balgobin told the T&T Guardian a staff member has since been messaging her constantly, telling her to remove the post.
Contacted on the issue, South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) CEO Keith McDonald said he has initiated an investigation into Balgobin’s claims. The Quality Improvement Department (QID) has also contacted Balgobin to discuss any further concerns and to have the relevant arrangements made. McDonald said a preliminary report should reach his desk this morning.
“I don’t want to talk about it out of turn before hearing the full story. So far, we have verbal information and I don’t like to go on that alone. I will have more information on Monday morning,” McDonald said yesterday.
Balgobin confirmed to Guardian Media yesterday that she was contacted by the QID to ascertain whether her son’s condition had improved and whether she still wanted to visit the San Fernando General Hospital. However, she said she had concerns about the feared long waiting hours at the hospital.
Recalling the incident, she said on Friday her son’s eyes started getting red and swollen until he could barely open them. She said she got to the health centre at 3.43 pm and told the clerk at the counter that she needed to see a doctor. Balgobin said the clerk’s response was that the doctors would not see her son as it was almost time to close and they had stopped accepting patients. Despite telling the clerk it was not yet 4 pm and the baby needed a doctor, the clerk’s response was that someone else was already turned away.
“The clerk at the counter did not advise anything. She only indicated that they would not tend to me. Her exact words were: ‘The doctor has two patients to tend to and they have already turned away two people so I am sure they would not take you’. I responded: ‘So you’re telling me I’m here with a 13-month-old baby that has an emergency and you’re telling me that the doctor won’t see me?’ That’s when she responded: ‘I not telling yuh nothing’ in a very rude tone and refused to make eye contact keeping her head down,” Balgobin claimed.
Worried about her son’s health, Balgobin walked towards four nurses standing nearby and asked if someone could look at him and at least advise her on his condition. One of the nurses walked over to the doctor to inform a doctor there was an emergency with the baby.
However, the doctor’s response was that they could not help Balgobin and that she should go to the San Fernando General Hospital emergency department if she needed help.
In her post, Balgobin showed a photo of a clock on the wall at the facility showing it was then 3.53 pm. Seeking some kind of assistance, she contacted the SWRHA complaints hotline where the attendants told her to wait while they contacted the health centre. Although health centres usually close at 4 pm, Guardian Media understands that the Marabella Health Centre operates under extended hours and was supposed to close at 9 pm. But Balgobin said when the SWRHA attendants got on the phone with the doctor, security was ordered to put her off the compound.
“The security came a total of four times and asked me to leave the compound, saying he is securing the government property and needs me to take my call outside. Even the person on the phone who was from the Quality Department told him that I am to remain in the compound as they are on the phone with the doctor at the moment and required me to stay right there. He still indicated that he has instructions from the doctor that I should be removed from the compound,” Balgobin said.
She said the attendant from the QID was shocked and a nurse hiding behind a wall outside the building told the security officer to call the police and began berating her. She said a senior nurse came out and twice told the nurse to stop quarrelling and stay quiet. Half an hour later, she said two doctors walked out the health centre and went to their cars.
“That’s just my confirmation that all they care about is the large sums of money that go into their bank accounts at the end of the month.”
She said her personal doctor, who was about to have a surgical procedure done, later asked his doctor to give him a minute so that he could listen to her problem and advise on what medication she should administer to her son.