Minister of Health Sen. Luke Browne has explained why one of his nephews was taken overseas for medical attention, saying this was not a commentary on the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH).
The child, the son of Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar had been at the MCMH for days before his parents decided to take him to Barbados for specialist attention, Browne said.
Browne made the disclosure on Boom FM on Monday while he defended the services provided at the MCMH – the nation’s main healthcare facility — amidst increased focus on the facility after the July 28 death there of social and political activist Oscar Allen.
Allen, 75, died seven days after undergoing urgent surgery to his large intestines. The surgical intervention had been twice postponed after two of the three anaesthesiologists at MCMH had fallen ill.
In a July 14 letter to administrator of MCMH, Grace Walters, and copied to other officials, including the Health Minister, Allen said that the delay in the surgery could have “fatal consequences”.
The activist had said that while a section of the population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines “does not trust the services offered at the MCMH. I however do.”
Browne said that Allen had expressed trust in the hospital and that is “not a part of his letter that should be hidden under a bushel”.
The health minister further said that he has close relatives who go to the hospital for medical attention.
He said that in the case of his nephew, he has a little liberty to talk about that case because he had discussed it with his sister and got permission.
“You’re behaving as if the child fall sick today and tonight he rush out of St. Vincent. He was at the hospital for several days in St. Vincent and the Grenadines even before his parents even ventured to think to take him abroad. For several days here and because of a worsening of his condition, because he developed some cardiac complications and we don’t have a cardiologist in St. Vincent, then a decision was taken to take him abroad,” Browne said.
“That is responsible parenting. In the first place, they had trust in our system here. He was here for a long time. He developed some complications and, as I said at the outset, is it sometimes necessary for us to seek medical attention abroad. And it is not as if only one set of people could get medical attention abroad. And it is not as if the government paid anything at all for his pursuit of medical attention overseas. We have confidence in the health system.
“We know that it is not perfect, while we know that some matters might need to be referred, there is a general confidence in the system and that is a confidence that Oscar Allen himself expressed in the letter.”
It was further pointed out that Daniela Daniel, the 27-year-old daughter of Housing Minister, Montgomery Daniel, died in Trinidad on July 18, sometime after she was hospitalised at MCMH.
Browne said that as far as he knows, Daniel’s death was not linked to the MCMH.
“That’s not what we found and I wouldn’t comment on that too much. I mean, I can talk about my nephew’s case because I have clearance on that, but, I mean we have to really avoid getting into the specifics of instances,” he said.
He however said that the minister’s daughter did not die because of a situation that developed at the hospital.
“I have had reports and on the basis of those reports, I am making my comments to you here. But, in terms of elaboration, it would not be appropriate for us to elaborate on them…
“What I would say, as well, in relation to that case — and I really want us to leave it there because we have to have some respect for the families — is that there were very long weather-based delays that prevented Mr. Daniel’s daughter from being able to leave St. Vincent and the Grenadines before the time she actually did.”
Daniel was taken to Trinidad for medical attention but died there.