After Complaint, Peebles to improve Communication

Thursday, 26th March 2015 by Chrystall Kanyuck

Ombudsman calls for patients charter

Complaints CommissionAfter two parents felt pressured to transfer their ill baby to an overseas medical facility at an expense of more than $50,000, BVI Health Services Authority CEO Darlene Carty-Baptiste pledged to improve Peebles Hospital’s communication with patients, particularly when it comes to sorting out patient transfers, according to the 13th Special Report by Complaints Commissioner Elton Georges.

Mr. Georges’ ultimately agreed with hospital officials’ decision that the 1-year-old should be transferred to Barbados, but he found the manner in which they dealt with the baby’s parents left much to be desired.

“The hospital’s manner of communicating with the parents in the case made a difficult situation worse,” the report states.

Also in response to the report, Ministry of Health and Social Development officials have begun drafting a policy to outline how the ministry’s health assistance fund is used, so that patients can better understand the programme, which loans money to patients or their families who need to be transported overseas for medical care.

Gravely ill

The baby seemed gravely ill when she was admitted to Peebles Hospital on March 7, 2014, and needed to be placed on a ventilator, according to Mr. Georges’ report. The following day, her condition had improved enough that “attending doctors thought that they were able to safely continue to monitor her condition at the hospital and shared the information as to her improvement and their opinion on care with [her] parents,” Mr. Georges reported.

The senior paediatrician in the hospital at the time, however, said the child was likely “stabilising” rather than truly improving, and felt that she “would require sustained critical care that was beyond the resources of the hospital,” the report states. The paediatrician said that facilities in Miami or Puerto Rico would be best.

While hospital authorities accepted the paediatrician’s assessment, other doctors had already told the parents that they didn’t agree that the transfer seemed necessary, and the baby’s parents, who did not have health insurance and feared the high costs — at least $60,000 for the hospital in Puerto Rico — were not convinced the transfer was necessary.

It was at this time, Mr. Georges found, that the paediatrician’s “insistence that there was no option became offensive.”

After some back and forth, the parents reluctantly agreed to have their child transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados, which has a paediatric intensive care unit and would cost less than the PR facility, the report continues.

The baby experienced a collapsed lung on the way to Barbados, and spent the first 12 days of her stay there on a ventilator, but, after 16 days at the QEH, she eventually recovered fully.

In an effort to make amends for the failures in communication with the parents, hospital officials forgave $8,000 in medical transfer fees owed by the parents, according to the report.