Family calls for probe into death of girl, 3, at COVID hospital


The family of three-year-old Jeniha McPherson is calling for a thorough investigation after she died 11 days after being admitted to the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.

The child presented with severe abdominal pain and vomiting. Jeniha of Hopetown, West Coast Berbice died on February 11, hours after she underwent surgery at the facility which houses the majority of patients infected with COVID-19.

Her relatives are accusing the hospital of negligence and claim that the hospital ignored their cries to treat her for abdominal pain. Jeniha was initially taken to the Mahaicony Hospital and later referred to the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC) where she tested positive for COVID-19 and later transferred to the COVID facility at Liliendaal.

The News Room understands that while the child tested positive for the virus, doctors could not find a diagnosis for her other symptoms.

During an interview with the News Room on Tuesday, relatives said they were told that the baby girl died as a result of a ruptured appendix, but reports reaching this news entity indicate that the child was not given a definitive diagnosis.

When contacted, Head of Strategic Planning and Communications at the Georgetown Public Hospital, Chelauna Providence, said that several CT scans and ultrasounds were done to find the best course of treatment for the child; the scans, she said, were also shared with other local doctors and overseas counterparts to help find a diagnosis.

Providence explained that the little girl was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) due to the severity of her case.

The News Room understands that the child presented with several complications and one of the 10 possible diagnoses was a ruptured appendix and even at the time of her surgery, doctors did not arrive at a diagnosis.

But the hospital’s report on the death states that Jeniha went into septic shock, she had intestinal obstruction, abdominal distension, peritonitis infection, and abdominal perforation.

Relatives said Jeniha complained of abdominal pains on February 1.

Her aunt, Carol McPherson told the News Room that Jeniha was first placed in the COVID-19 ward at the hospital and four days later she was transferred to ICU after her condition worsened.

According to the aunt, the child’s abdomen started to swell, she was vomiting and she was unable to urinate and defecate. On February 9, they were told to pay for the CT scan.

One of the aunt’s nephews caught a glimpse of the child at the GPHC when he went to pay for the scan and observed some green substance coming out of her feeding tube.

One nurse is reported to have told the nephew the child ate grass and that is why the substance was green.

When asked about this, Providence clarified that the green substance was from the NG bag which runs from the nose to the stomach and not from a urine bag.

“The Thursday now – that is the 10th February – they asked for a surgery.

“I said why you want a surgery? The CT scan did not show anything, the ultrasound did not show anything, why you want a surgery?

“But they hold out and said they want a surgery,” McPherson recalled.

The family took some 24 hours before they gave the hospital permission to go ahead with the surgery.

“They said it is a 50/50 chance, sometime she might live, sometime she might die,” McPherson told the News Room as she explained that doctors did not reveal the reason for the surgery.

The surgery was done on February 11 at about 10:30hrs at the Infectious Diseases Hospital. After the surgery, relatives were informed that the child was doing well; she was being given blood and saline.

So, when the call came later that night at about 20:00hrs that Jeniha had passed away, the family was shocked.

“They told the mother it was too late, they cleaned inside [body cavity] but it was too late,” McPherson explained.

Jeniha lived with her grandparents and aunt in Hopetown and according to the aunt, she was a joy to be around. She was expected to start nursery school in September this year.

“Oh, she was so joyful, loved to play. [She] was with her grandfather all the time, she and him would do everything together…”

The family is pleading for answers and justice in the child’s death.

Meanwhile, even though the child died after testing positive for COVID-19, she was not listed among Guyana’s latest COVID fatalities. The Ministry of Health has not announced a change in protocols for reporting on COVID deaths and it is unclear why the death of the three-year-old was not reported on by the ministry.

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