The children of a former Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) employee are suing the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) for $1.3 million over the death of their mother, Joy Balbos, three years ago.
In an interview with reporters at their attorney’s office in San Fernando yesterday, Carolyn Balbos and Celin Ganpat claimed that the oxygen tube that was helping their mother breathe at the Eric Williams Science Complex (EWMSC) in Mt Hope was accidentally disconnected, resulting in their mother suffering brain damage.
They are being represented by attorneys Prakash Ramadhar, Ted Roopnarine and Kishore Ramadhar in the negligence lawsuit.
Balbos, a mother of five, was transferred from the Arima Health Facility to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex for breathing problems on September 14, 2018.
Her children said their mother was sedated and later taken off the ventilator, but was still having difficulty breathing, so the doctors recommended that a breathing tube be inserted.
Due to the lack of space at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), they said their mother was taken to the Emergency Room where ICU doctors would have been summoned to take care of her.
The doctors stayed with their mother, who was talking and seemed to be improving. Their mother was sedated again and sometime later, they went home to change.
Carolyn recalled, “They said that they called us but we didn’t get any missed calls from these numbers, that they were calling us because they had an emergency. So when we went back to the hospital, a doctor came and asked if anyone had spoken to us about our mom. We said no and he said that he want to have a meeting Saturday morning.”
They said a consultant doctor told them that while attending to another patient, he realised that the oxygen tube connecting oxygen to their mother was disconnected.
“He also mentioned to us he didn’t understand why nobody wasn’t paying attention, because the sound was going off and there were nurses around there and from there, they tried to bring her back twice. They tried twice and the second time is when they found a pulse,” lamented Carolyn.
Their mother died the following day. According to an autopsy, her death was due to a lack of oxygen to her brain. Ganpat said the doctor apologised to them numerous times.
Noting that her youngest sibling was 10 years old at the time of their mother’s death, Carolyn said their mother worked hard to provide for them.
“She worked several jobs to take care of us. Even though our dad was in our life, he had some issues so she basically was both and mother and father figure to all of us and she did her best to ensure that we all got what we needed, we never suffered,” said Carolyn.
While they try to be there for their younger siblings, they said no one could replace their mother. They said they did not like how the hospital officials treated them. While they want justice for their mother, the sisters said they also want to highlight the carelessness at the hospital.
“I just feel like they need to, people need to know the truth, people need to know what goes on inside of there, people need to know that this is what happens to many people, there are careless mistakes and they not holding their self responsible for what they are doing,” she said.
Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex at Mt Hope. picture courtesy Ministry of Health
Claiming that the NCRHA offered the family $20,000 compensation but without accepting liability, Ramadhar said that offer was insulting.
“I was appalled that the cost of human life in this country could be seen with such a negligible number for a 44-year-old woman who meant everything to her family. She was really the magnet and the glue for her entire family, not just her children but grandchildren and I understand, in the community,” Ramadhar added.
Apart from getting compensation for the family, he said, “By filing this action, we hope to ventilate the issues here because human life is precious and sometimes to hear a simple error can cause the loss of life, is something that is highly avoidable and especially from what has been described to us, this was in the emergency room area which is populated heavily with nurses and other medical professionals.”
A pre-action protocol letter was sent to the NCRHA in April and in May, the authority asked for an extension of time.
In July, Ramadhar and his team sent a reminder to them but to date, they have not received a response.