A plaster and a silver lining

 If accident victim Ryan Rampersad had not been moved out of the Port of Spain General Hospital, he would almost certainly be dead now. 

Ryan, 21, was one of the six people who were run over by a car driven by an off-duty policeman in Sea Lots almost a year ago. Haydee Paul, 28, and her two daughters, Shakira, seven, and Akasha, eight, were killed, and Ryan was virtually paralysed by his injuries. Three months after the accident, doctors from the PoS General Hospital decided to discharge him on the grounds that they could do nothing further for him. But, as reported exclusively by the Express, the staff of that institution had clearly not been doing much to start with.

At the time of his planned release from the hospital, Ryan’s left ear was in a decaying state, with a gaping sore behind his left earlobe. His buttocks and left ankle also had bed sores, one of which had been infected and was oozing. And, since bed sores for paralysed patients are caused simply by not turning them regularly, the reasonable inference is that the doctors and nurses at the hospital had given up Ryan for dead and, moreover, were not interested in making his supposedly last days as comfortable as possible.

This reflects not only the unprofessional standards of the hospital’s staff, but their callous attitude as well. If Ryan were not a poor young man from Sea Lots, would he have been treated this way? Now, six months after he would have been sent home to die, Ryan, under the care of Dr Peter Poon King at the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Unit of the St James Medical Complex, has made steady progress. He was able to spend Christmas Eve with his two small children and, according to Dr Poon King, “is fully conscious, he’s coherent, he’s aware of what’s happening, his intelligence level is almost where it was before.”

But the question remains as to how many people have died needlessly at this country’s public hospitals because health personnel there decided they could not be saved or were not worth saving. It is unlikely that the POSGH’s administration instituted any internal investigation into Ryan’s case or, if they did, that they disciplined anyone. After all, unprofessionalism starts at the top. Health Minister Fuad Khan was able to stop the hospital’s course of action, but Ryan’s reprieve represents only a plaster on that institutional sore.

The silver lining is that, thanks to the pressure of public opinion, with Ryan’s plight highlighted in this newspaper, and because of the commitment and expertise of Dr Poon King, a life was saved and a life, hopefully, may soon be restored.

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