Neonatologist and former head of the Neonatal Unit at the Port of Spain General Hospital Dr Petronella Manning-Alleyne; retired Appeal Court judge, Mustapha Ibrahim and consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist attached to the University College London Hospitals Dr Melanie Clare Davies will comprise the independent committee which would probe the circumstances which led to the death of baby Simeon on March 1 at Mt Hope Women’s Hospital.
Baby Simeon’s head was cut as his mother Quelly Ann Cottle underwent a Caesarean section, resulting in his death. Dr Javed Chinnia has since been suspended pending the outcome of an independent investigation.
As he announced the members of the committee yesterday, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan stressed: “This is not a witch-hunt.”
He said the committee would determine what went wrong, why it went wrong and what should be done to prevent it from recurring. “It is going to be a no-holds-barred approach. I am going to encourage the committee to shoot from the hip and let us deal with the problem frankly and squarely,” he said.
Ramlogan said the Prime Minister, before her departure to the US on Monday, gave clear instructions that there is to be no sweeping of this matter under the carpet, “that we must take the bull by the horns and we must wrestle this beast into the ground” that concerns the loss of the life of an innocent baby.
Speaking to reporters during the tea break of the Senate, Ramlogan added that the probe is meant to be a fair, balanced and unbiased professional investigation, which would speak to the facts.
“We must allow the investigation to be transparent and fair and free from fear,” the Attorney General stated.
At the same time, he said he wanted the committee to be open and frank with the Government and say whether the State fell down or if didn’t fall “so that we can prevent tragedies such as this recurring ... bearing in mind that medicine is not an exact science. Mistakes will happen and at all times there is no guarantee when anyone goes into any operating theatre for any medical procedure, that they would come out alive because that resides in the hands of the Lord,” he said.
Ramlogan said he would be compiling the briefs today and sending it out to the committee’s members.
The committee would review the statements and obviously want to meet with the hospital, its administrators, Ministry of Health, the family in question, he noted.
He said the scheduling for Davies, the foreigner on the committee, would have to be worked out for when she can come to Trinidad or alternatively when she can receive the transcripts.
“Time is of the essence. But it is important that we get it right and don’t speed along. ... This thing must done in a proper way,” he said.
While he did not give a specific time-frame, Ramlogan said he would recommend to the Cabinet that the committee report be made public “because the Government has nothing to hide”.
Asked whether there would be a shut down on information once the probe starts, the AG said while there would be no lock down on information, he would ask for some “calm and restraint”.
“Because we must not jump to conclusions. We must not try, convict and execute whilst the investigation is going on. Let us keep an open mind and establish what the facts are,” he said.
To the family, Ramlogan said the family would not get back the child they lost but the knowledge that Government is moving to ensure that the tragedy does not befall anyone else.
Noting that Simeon’s father spared a thought for the doctor, he said the family clearly did not believe the doctor set out to kill the child.
Ramlogan said this matter was dear to his heart since he had done a lot of the pioneering work in the field of medical malpractice and he had the dubious distinction of being the only attorney to have a doctor de-registered and expelled.
The AG said while he was keeping an open mind, he was not afraid to let the chips fall where they must. “If there is wrongdoing, if there is any cover-up then that would be exposed and dealt with with the full weight of the law,” he said.
Ramlogan said the Prime Minister expressed her grave personal concern about the state of maternal care and wanted a robust, frank discussion at the level of the committee.
He said the Government stood firm by its mandate to protect the life of every child and recognised the need to critically assess the systems by which the Mount Hope Hospital operates so as to ensure that the tragedy of baby Simeon and the indescribable grief of Quelly Ann Cottle and his family is never repeated at any the nation’s hospitals in the future.
The committee, which would report to the Attorney General and not to the Minister of Health, would not just focus on the specific incident but would take a broader approach on what policies and procedures are needed to improve the level of health care in the area of obstetrics and gynaecology.