A multi-million-dollar legal battle over babies switched at birth at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital may end up in court as families of the two babies are asking for $5 million each in compensation.
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan yesterday confirmed he has received two legal letters from the families—one from Trinidad and the other from Tobago.
“I am going to let the courts decide, the court will establish whether this was indeed a genuine mix-up or otherwise,” Khan told the Express by phone.
He also confirmed that the family from Tobago had sent him a legal letter asking for $5 million in compensation and he received another letter from the Trinidad family asking for an equivalent payment.
Khan said the moment the ministry learnt of the baby issue “we dealt with it in a rapid manner and they (families) were extremely happy at the time that they would both be receiving their babies”.
He said the babies at this time need all the love, attention and care from their families.
“I have done as much as I can as a minister. I will let the court decide further,” said Khan.
He added that chairman of the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA), Eddie Haqq, was in Tobago and has been liaising with the families and lending support.
On August 10, the two baby girls were returned to their biological parents.
The saga unfolded six months ago when two women went to the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital to deliver their babies via Caesarean section.
The Tobago mother and her husband are of Afro-Trinidadian ethnicity while the Central mother and her husband are of Indian ethnicity.
After their surgeries, both mothers were placed on the same ward, in beds next to each other.
They both had baby girls who were tagged and placed in cots next to the patients believed to be their biological mothers.
The two mothers were discharged from the hospital, each taking home a stranger’s baby.
For some five months the two families took care of the babies as their own, including breast-feeding, but the parents were confused that their babies did not look like them and seemed to not be of the same race.
The Trinidad family decided to get private DNA testing which found that the baby was not theirs.
They immediately went to the minister who took charge of the issue and ensured the babies were returned to their rightful parents in a matter of days.
Khan himself had visited the families and collaborated with Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Secretary for Health, Claudia Groome Duke, on the matter.
However, the grandmother of the Tobago baby told the Express yesterday she was disappointed in Khan’s position and lack of sensitivity.
She said she will leave the matter in the hands of God but will pursue legal action if need be.
The grandmother said the family was willing to meet with Khan and discuss the issue and amicably settle the situation out of court.
She said her daughter-in-law was still not coping well with the entire situation and was in need of counselling and care as she was in a state of depression.
The Express understands the families of the two babies have remained in close communication and the Trinidad family has also requested reimbursement from the Mt Hope hospital of all the monies they spent on private genetic testing which amounted to close to $20,000.