Shocking and quite worrying.
That's how Medical Chief of Staff of the Mt Hope Women's Hospital, Dr Karen Sohan, yesterday described information which revealed "74 girls under the age of 16" gave birth at the hospital last year.
The figure came days after police opened an investigation into who was responsible for the sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl who gave birth to a baby boy on April 23 at the San Fernando General Hospital. Of this figure, Sohan said "12 girls under age of 16 had delivered" post-Carnival babies last September.
"As a social issue, this is very significant if you have 74 children under the age of 16 making a baby. The target should be the schools. Apart from when they come into the hospital to deliver, somebody must have known they were pregnant. "Therefore, we should also be addressing the issue of contraceptive. The issue here is preventing teenage pregnancy. We have to try harder, without a doubt," Sohan said.
She said the nurses at the hospital did their part by going into schools to educate students about sex.
"It is not a national policy. You have to depend on the individual school to invite you in. If you have 74... 16-year-olds and less you must address contraception. It is always worrying if a 16 or less gets pregnant."
Of the 74 pregnancies, Sohan could not say how many were reported to the police. "Our doctors have been reporting. It is the law. I would have expected that all have been reported," she added.
Yesterday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia admitted reports came to him "where principals have extended the suspension of students who have engaged in sex in the classroom. "We know that there is a problem of sexual activity among our schoolchildren. We cannot hide that fact," he added.
Garcia said the school population was often "bombarded with sexual images" on social media, which attributed to the problem. Questioned if the ministry intended to advocate that students use contraception, Garcia said that had never entered the mind of the ministry.
"That will require national debate. It will require discussion with parents in particular. I am not sure whether our parents will accede to such an initiative," he said.
Head of the police Victims and Witness Support Unit Margaret Sampson-Browne said the figure was unacceptable. "I am angry and saddened because everything is happening after the fact. We have to get serious," she added.
She said many of those girls got pregnant by their fathers and grandfathers. "Why are the perpetrators walking free?" she asked.
Outside of this figure, Sampson-Browne said she knew of a 12-year-old girl who was pregnant with her second child. "We have no evidence of these reports (74). The Child Protection Unit must be informed about this.
That information should have reached our unit and an aggressive kind of investigation should have taken place. It's time some of those caregivers come to the police in handcuffs," she added.