PAHO asked to assist cancer deaths investigation at GPHC

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By Fareeza Haniff

The Ministry of Public Health has solicited the assistance of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) into the investigation of the deaths of three cancer patients who died under mysterious circumstances after receiving an injection prior to their chemotherapy treatment at the Georgetown Public Hospital.

In her first public statement since the deaths of the children – who all suffered from Leukemia – the Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence met with selected media houses Monday, including the State media, where she revealed that PAHO has been approached to assist in the investigation.

Minister Lawrence promised that the investigation will be a thorough and transparent one as she acknowledged the pain being felt by those involved, especially the families of the children.

“We do feel your pain but we will work assiduously to ensure that this matter is dealt with in a very open and transparent way and that we bring it to conclusion at the earlier possible time. What I do ask, however, is to allow due process to take its course,” the Public Health Minister said.

She said that the PAHO intervention allows the investigation to be independent.

Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence at Monday’s press conference.

“…so that there would be persons outside of the system who will be part of the process so that they can lend to the transparency, they can lend to the process and they can be able to provide the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation with any technical assistance which they may not have,” Minister Lawrence assured.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shamdeo Persaud has put together a team that will be looking at the drugs administered during the tenure of the patients at the hospital.

“And this is to ensure that we have an all rounded approach to what transpired with these patients. We believe that having a report from the drugs administered will be able to give clarity in that aspect of the services provided while we look at the human aspect from the hospital point of view,” the Public Health Minister noted.

The hospital has since recalled the use of the medication until the outcome of the investigation.

The first child who died was 7-year-old Curwayne Edwards on January 14, followed by three-year-old Roshini Seegobin of Enmore, East Coast Demerara (ECD).

She died on January 18 while the third child, 6-year-old Sharezer Mendonca of Queenstown Essequibo Coast died on January 24.

All three of these children suffered from Leukemia and were administered the same injection before their chemotherapy treatment.

But within hours, the children started to experience strange symptoms and cried out for pain in their legs and arms.

They all became paralyzed and were placed on life support until their deaths.

News Room was reliably informed that the issue has to do with the way in which the injection was administered by the health care professional.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the hospital, George Lewis, who was also at the media briefing Monday, agreed that the incidents should have never happened.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GPHC, George Lewis

He said that the deaths have not only cause tremendous trauma to the families but to the health care professionals and workers as well.

The CEO said that to the best of his knowledge, the medication was not expired and noted that the hospital will continue to examine its systems, standard operating procedures and protocols to ensure there is no reoccurrence.

The Board of the GPHC is expected to receive a report on the investigation sometime Tuesday.

An autopsy performed on Mendonca was inconclusive and samples were taken for further testing overseas.

It is unclear whether autopsies were performed on the other two children.

The Mendoncas have sought legal advice from two Attorneys – Ganesh Hira and Chandrapratesh Satram – who have since requested the hospital to hand over the child’s medical records.

The family is looking to take legal action against the hospital for negligence.

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